Renewable energy solutions are often considered a white elephant by telecoms companies, but this perception has been outdated for some time and operators are now beginning to catch on to its advantages.
There are two major obstacles facing operators that wish to purchase renewable energy systems for their towers. The first is the CAPEX, particularly in developing countries. Directly related to this is the technology risk: network providers tend not to have any knowledge of renewable energy systems so installing an unfamiliar solution can be a major headache. Increasingly, energy companies are able to install the systems and manage them over time.
Rather than selling energy on a per kW/h basis, energy companies can manage the full energy solution for each site and ensure that the telecom tower stays online. This model is very flexible; solutions can be deployed in very remote areas. In addition to the funding, this is facilitated by working within certain insurance arrangements to ensure that all parties have undertaken a manageable level of risk.
Carriers are now streamlining their focus on what they do best and outsourcing everything else; for example, tower infrastructure is increasingly owned by dedicated tower companies rather than the carriers themselves. Renewable energy was perhaps seen as too much hassle to integrate in the past, but with this industry shift it is far more common for dedicated energy companies to manage their own solutions for operators.
"The growing consensus is that distributed renewable energy is best delivered as a financed solution", says Nick Blitterswyk of Urban Green Energy. "Within the US, companies have had the most success by revolutionising the way in which energy is delivered to the customer."
Rather than simply selling their solutions, companies have highlighted the savings available by matching or beating current energy rates, which essentially eliminates the technology risk for the customer. In any distributable energy industry, this is the key to making it the technology of choice.
It makes a lot of sense from a risk standpoint. If a telecoms company needs to figure out where its investment should go, a renewable energy system seems risky - it’s technology that they’re unused to. However, this is ultimately a disparity of information – and it’s one that renewable energy companies are best suited to tackle.