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Indus Towers ‘greening’ its sites; achieves a reduction in diesel consumption by around 11.46%

In conversation with Sustainability Outlook, Mr.Bimal Dayal, CEO, Indus Towers shares his thoughts on the company’s energy and waste management initiatives in a bid to move towards a more sustainable future.

What are the key drivers for the firm for pursuing sustainability?

Our core values drive sustainability across our business and serve as a guiding tool for ingraining sustainability in our day-today operations. We have an operational philosophy of putting India first. There have been numerous occasions wherein we have held the national interest ahead of company and individual interest. We practice and hold ourselves honest about Indus values. Indus values can be described by the term ExCITE, which is an acronym for Excellence, Integrity, Teamwork and Environment. Our values ensure that we deliver best-in class, reliable and high quality services to our customers, conduct our business with the utmost integrity, encourage innovation and collaboration across functions, protect the environment, and be socially responsible.

What are some of the key sustainability initiatives being undertaken by Indus Towers to improve operational efficiency?

Our sustainability initiatives began with us deciding to completely remove diesel from our sites – with the ‘Shut DG Shut AC’ initiative

When we started, we were targeting an almost 100% up-time. With the erratic power availability in our country, we were highly dependent upon the diesel and battery backups. Our sustainability initiatives began with us deciding to completely remove diesel from our telecom tower sites. In order to do so, we started with an initiative called ‘Shut DG and Shut AC’. In order to prioritize the demand side, we started removing the air conditioners, as we knew that air conditioners consume roughly 35-40% of a site’s energy consumption. After removing the air conditioners, we started optimizing our battery backups and started making sites green. Almost 50,000 green sites could be make diesel free, on account of this. A site typically has 2 air conditioners, so almost 100,000 air conditioners have been released from the network and the energy consumption has actually come down. The moment this consumption comes down, we can make the site green with the intervention of batteries. Apart from this, our priority was to reduce the consumption and move towards smart backups. The desired objective was to retire the air conditioners but wherever the equipments were not sustainable, we started retrofitting with natural cooling or forced cooling units. Depending upon the power supply conditions, we deployed suitable batteries. It was a plethora of combinations which were helping us to achieve our bigger objective of diesel abatement. Our main priority was to have an optimized battery back-up, so that we could store the grid power efficiently, and then look into solar power possibilities and other options. For this initiative, we won a GSMA award in Barcelona.

What has been the impact of the green sites?

With telecom sites going green, we have managed to reduce our diesel consumption as well as carbon intensity of our operations. We have achieved an overall reduction of around 11.46% in diesel consumption in FY 2014-15 over the previous year despite an 8.8% growth in tenancy. With the help of our initiatives, we were also able to reduce our CO2 intensity by 3.8% over one year. This was achieved in spite of the increase in grid emission factor for the country and our compulsion to store the power in the battery backups, because of the irregular power supply.

Moreover, despite natural calamities like the Chennai floods and cyclones, we achieved an up-time of 99.98% which gives us confidence that our work is yielding positive results, without compromising on the resilience of the network. 

Apart from greening the sites, what other sustainability initiatives is the firm pursuing?

Extending our commitment to making our entire operations environment-friendly, our information technology (IT) vertical has also incorporated environmental considerations in its purchasing decisions. We have reduced the number of our physical servers with high-energy consumption, and consolidated these into a virtual platform. With the DC rack power normalisation initiative, we wanted to ensure uniform power and heat dissipation across the rack cage areas. This resulted in uniform air flow across all racks and reduced cooling requirement.

In the last two years, Indus has made an investment of about Rs 500 crores, trying to reduce energy consumption and moving towards more efficient energy products.

Another initiative is the diesel tracking system. The objective was to ensure that the usage of diesel is controlled across all the towers we manage. This system enables us to plan diesel-filling activity in an automated manner and monitor the usage of diesel according to its capacity, identify the gaps in usage vis-a-vis consumption per hour and help the energy team centrally analyse trends of diesel consumption across all the circles and towers.

Also, our Tower Operating Centre (ToC) is a fully-automated centralised monitoring centre located in Gurgaon and Chennai which controls and monitors the site health on a real-time basis, leading to optimal utilisation of resources. The ToC plays a key role in our energy management initiatives. All energy-related alarms are classified as high priority and are immediately shared with field technicians. For example, the ‘door open’ alarm helps us to know if the shelter door is open, which causes greater load on the air-conditioning (AC) system, which, in turn, consumes more energy. The field technicians are alerted through the systems, so they can reach the site to rectify the issue right away. Our business analytics solution produced an automated trend analysis about sites which are consuming high levels of power.

What were some of the challenges that you faced in pursuing these initiatives?

On one side there is an increased demand with the increase in customers and the on other we have to reduce our energy consumption. In spite of having a customer growth of 3.6%, we are able to reduce our energy use. The second challenge is waste management. The moment we move towards batteries, we have to be socially responsible and must draw the boundaries much beyond the statute of recycling of the batteries and waste management. We are also giving old batteries, which are retired from our network, back to the recyclers.

How does the firm view sustainability both in the short term and medium term?

Our business model itself is a green business model. If the internet and telecom penetration increases, it reduces the need for people to travel and improves the efficiency of the people. Our sharing infrastructure model saves the nation

Saving in capital expenditure because of the shared infrastructure we have created, has been to the tune of USD 3 billion over the last 8 years.

valuable capex, i.e the capital required to roll out the services especially in the rural areas. According to our estimates, the saving in capital expenditure because of the shared infrastructure we have created has been to the tune of USD 3 billion over the last 8 years.

In the last two years, Indus has made an investment of about Rs 500 crores, trying to reduce energy consumption and moving towards more efficient energy products.  When it comes to innovation in energy, we will relentlessly drive not only reduced consumption but also increased renewable energy generation. We feel that if we can reduce and ultimately eliminate diesel usage in our networks, we will be contributing towards the environment by reducing our carbon footprint.

Author: sustainabilityoutlook