An interesting report released this morning by Vodafone and Accenture suggests that a combination of smart machine-to-machine (M2M) and dematerialization services could reduce Europe’s energy bill by at least €43 billion and reduce CO2 emissions by at least 113Mt.
Note the italicised could, because this is dependent upon companies following a series of recommendations across 13 categories in five areas, ranging from centralized tracking and loading optimization to mobile telepresence and the enhanced usage of virtual offices: the virtual office reduction of 1.4Mt of CO2 emissions and energy savings of €4.7 billion are predicated upon the assumptions that one third of users will access conferences via mobile, and that office workers will telecommute one day per week on average.
The report also notes that for the opportunities to maximize their potential opex savings and CO2 reductions, EU-25 businesses would “require approximately one billion connections, 87% of which will be M2M.” This would be a fairly substantial undertaking, to put it mildly: by way of comparison, there were just under 570 million active mobile SIM cards in these markets at the end of 2008.
And yet, from an operator perspective, this approach makes perfect sense: the markets in Europe are saturated, and much as many of them would like to sell us a new subscription each week, that approach just isn’t going to work. To put it bluntly, the focus will shift from White Van Man to White Van Man’s Van: installing telematics systems across fleet vehicles to enable smart logistics.
Furthermore, in an environment where companies are increasingly likely to face higher penalties for exceeding their allocation of CO2 emissions, and where the cost of grid electricity is likely to rise above inflation, it also makes commercial sense for Vodafone’s target audience.
For its part, the mobile industry has taken a number of steps in recent years to reduce power consumption (and resultant CO2 emissions) within the network: that said, many cell sites are highly inefficient – more than 80% of electricity coming to the power amplifiers (PAs) at base stations is wasted – while in areas dependent upon off-grid electricity, the bulk of that electricity is currently supplied by diesel generators, which are not only expensive to run but produce large volumes of CO2. Indeed, unless the industry takes substantial steps to address both base station inefficiencies and seeks to migrate away from diesel as an off-gird power source, we envisage global base station emissions rising from 22Mt today to nearly 35Mt by 2014.
Conversely, if the industry adopts a more proactive approach towards green energy, moving towards feederless sites, embracing automated meter reading, installing cell sites based on solar and wind energy, then that total will fall to less than 16Mt by 2014.
Vodafone and Accenture rightly point out that the reliance on mobile technologies provides the opportunity for enterprise to reduce the scale of its CO2 emissions; through a combination of network planning and renewable energy adoption, the mobile industry has the opportunity to do precisely the same.