Small renewable energy companies step up as telcos go green
Updated: Nov 20, 2022
As operators transition telecom towers from diesel to clean energy, small green energy innovators are emerging as the biggest beneficiaries - some already looking at million-dollar contracts.
**By Conrad Onyango, bird story agency**
Small energy firms are staring at a multi-million dollar opportunity as telecom operators in Africa ramp up the switch from diesel power to clean energy for powering offices and transmission towers.
Across the continent, telecom operators are at different stages - including the planning, testing and onboarding of local-based startups offering battery storage and solar home system services.
Small renewable energy companies step up as telcos go green [Graphics: Hope Mukami]
British telecoms group Vodafone is the latest to tap into these clean energy firms after enlisting Engie Energy Access and Bboxx - active in solar-powered mini-grids and solar home systems - through its Renewable Power challenge.
The operator is leveraging the initiative to test the viability of using clean energy at its African network sites, it says.
“Vodafone Group is working on plans with four organisations to carry out renewable power generation proof-of-concept trials across mobile access sites,” the company said in a statement.
Vodafone operates in eight African countries - Ghana, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Mozambique, Lesotho, South Africa, Egypt and Angola.
In its 2022 climate report launched in September, African Mobile operator MTN said it is looking for partners with innovative, low-carbon and renewable energy solutions like on-site hydrogen generation, solar, wind, fuel cell and hybrid.
The operator has installed 30 off-grid renewable systems at its towers in rural South Africa. In June, the operator partnered with Cameroon’s Rural Electrification Agency (AER) to power its network infrastructure with solar energy.
According to the report, MTN seeks to reduce its carbon footprint by 50 per cent by 2030 following the launch of its ‘Project Zero’ strategies in South Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon, Sudan, and Ghana in 2021.
In August, Nigerian mobile phone operator Hotspot Network partnered with a solar-microgrid energy provider, Husk Power, to convert 100 diesel-powered telecoms towers to solar power by June 2023.
“In Nigeria, 25,000 telecom towers and their base transceiver stations (BTS) use 1.25 million litres of diesel per day. If converted to solar, our project will avoid at least 50 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year,” the two partners said in a joint statement.
Already, The two companies have converted nearly 20 of Hotspot’s mobile towers to solar in the West African country.
Africa’s largest telecom tower operator, IHS Towers, has announced plans to invest US$214 million between 2022 and 2024 to green its highly diesel-dependent telecom sites in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Zambia.
Through its ‘Project Green’ and a zero-emission roadmap launched in October 2022, it projects a 50 per cent reduction in its towers’ per kilowatt hour emission by 2030.
“Our Carbon Reduction Roadmap is the next step in our journey to reduce our carbon footprint by setting tangible emissions targets,” said IHS Towers Chief Executive Officer Sam Darwish.
In October, Energy Service Company, AktivCo and a subsidiary of French Telecom infrastructure firm, Camusat announced it had received 9 million euros to extend clean energy installation to telecom network operators in Chad, Niger, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso.
In 2021, AktivCo raised 60 million euros to help it expand renewable energy from the current 3,000 sites under its portfolio to 7,000 locations in the next three years.
GSMA, in its 2022 Mobile Net Zero Report, revealed that the number of operators who had committed to rapidly reducing their emissions over the next decade had risen to 49 from 31 operators in 2020. They include operators like MTN, Vodacom Group and Orange.
**bird, Africa Story Agency.**