About 37 percent of the carbon footprint of the entire information and communication technology sector (ICT) in 2007 was due to the energy consumption of telecom infrastructure and devices, according to the Climate Group (14 percent came from data centers, and 49 percent came from PCs and peripherals). Contrast that with telecom’s carbon footprint figure in 2002 which was 28 percent of ICT’s carbon footprint. Phone companies are starting to notice that trend: this morning AT&T announced that it has hired its first Director of Energy John Schinter.
Schinter will be in charge of managing and reducing AT&T’s energy consumption across its network and direct its energy-related purchasing. AT&T says they are in the process of “reorganizing the way AT&T optimizes our energy use,” and hiring Schinter is one part of that. Other energy-related initiatives the phone company has taken in recent years include: creating an Energy Council within AT&T to enable different divisions to talk together about the companies energy goals, establishing a goal to cut “electricity usage intensity (relative to data growth on the AT&T network) by 15 percent, compared to 2008 levels,” using 1E’s NightWatchman power management software on 310,000 AT&T employee computers and looking at alternative energy for AT&T facilities.
Phone companies, like computing companies, are facing a growing expense due to their energy consumption. By 2020 energy use related to mobile networks will make up 13 percent of the total ICT carbon footprint, according to the Climate Group. But the Climate Group is anticipating that phone companies’ energy efficiency efforts (like AT&T’s) over the coming years could provide significant savings. Energy optimization software could save up to 44 percent, renewable energy for base stations could reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent and adopting a variety of measures like these could lead to “the avoidance of almost 60 MtCO2e in 2020,” says the Climate Group. According to Pike Research “there are sufficient technology and process improvements that could reduce 2013 [telco] infrastructure emissions by at least 101 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, a decrease of 42 percent from business-as-usual (BAU) trendlines,” (more on that on GigaOM Pro, subscription required).
Phone companies are also moving aggressively to get into the business of using their networks for both the smart grid and home energy management. AT&T has teamed up with startup SmartSynch, as has T-Mobile. And telcos with home fiber deployments are rapidly looking to layer on energy management as a service, along with voice, video and data (read more about that on GigaOM Pro, subscription required).
Image courtesy of Ericsson.