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Resco Model: Collaborative approach to reduce sector’s carbon footprint

October 31, 2012
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Manoj Kumar Singh, Vice-President, Energy Management  and Technology, Indus Towers

Telecom infrastructure companies are committed to the cause of a cleaner and greener environment. Despite the fact that the telecom tower industry accounts for a mere 1 per cent of the country’s total carbon dioxide emissions, industry players are proactively taking measures to power their towers and infrastructure with cleaner fuels.

The adoption of renewable energy will ensure reduced usage of diesel for telecom towers and drive the move towards a more sustainable model for managing tower companies’ energy costs. To fast-track the adoption of hybrid renewable solutions, the industry has taken the initiative to collaborate with renewable energy service companies (rescos) to power their tower sites.

The resco model will help tower companies to increase their telecom reach, primarily through green and renewable energy sources. A collaborative approach with rescos will not only reduce the industry’s dependence on diesel but also help it address the energy needs of communities that have no access to grid power.

The Tower and Infrastructure Providers’ Association (TAIPA), the industry body representing tower infrastructure companies, has taken the lead in initiating a more realistic, effective and sustainable collaboration between telecom players and rescos.

TAIPA members, including the ATC Tower Company, Bharti Infratel, GTL Infrastructure, Indus Towers, Tower Vision India and Viom Networks, are working closely with the industry body to implement the resco model in their attempt to contribute to a greener environment.

Earlier this year, TAIPA released a request for proposal (RfP) for rescos to provide green energy solutions for 500 tower sites. This was done on a pilot basis, which would be considered for large-scale deployment depending on its success. These projects are being undertaken to design an effective and sustainable renewable energy solution across the country.

The RfP Technical was released on June 29, 2012, following which TAIPA invited technical bids from rescos for the pilot project in July 2012. About 25 bids were shortlisted through this process. Proposals received under RfP Technical were evaluated and categorised as A, B and C. Category A comprised technical bids that met all the specifications of RfP Technical; Category B included bids that met most of the requirements barring one or two; and Category C consisted of technical bids that failed to meet TAIPA’s specifications.

The selected rescos were engaged in further discussions for clarifications related to various aspects of the bid. Subsequently, RfP Commercial was released on August 27, 2012. The last date for the submission of commercial bids by the rescos was September 17, 2012 and notifications were to be issued to them after 30 days from the date of bid submission. Thereafter, discussions with these rescos will be initiated within two weeks of issuing the notifications. Further, the site cluster identification exercise will be jointly undertaken by TAIPA along with tower companies and the shortlisted rescos within three weeks after the negotiations. Following the completion of the site identification process, a letter of interest will be issued.

Currently, various energy solutions are being considered by the industry including solar, wind, biomass energy, free cooling units, outdoor base transceiver station (BTS) sites, direct current (DC) diesel generators, compressed natural gas gensets, liquefied petroleum gas gensets, inverters and fuel cells. Under the resco model, the ind-ustry is looking at providing power through biomass/renewable energy technologies (RET) or through solar/RET alternating current sources and DC sources.

Be it solar or wind, RETs have their own respective strengths and limitations, which makes each solution suitable for specific regions and terrains. Therefore, TAIPA, along with the rescos, is of the view that a “one size fits all” approach will not work for the diverse BTS sites in India.

The resco off-grid and distribution model for telecom towers in a cluster is based on the concept of “pay per unit cost”. This model is envisaged to tap the possibility of powering existing telecom sites and the upcoming sites with clean energy. For the existing telecom sites, the model aims to ensure optimum utilisation of resources. This includes leveraging various elements of a tower site including its height, security, power, bandwidth and the permanent concrete structure installed at the site.

Moreover, rescos aim to benefit the local community by providing them uninterrupted power. The excess power available at a tower location can support lighting of streets as well as schools, rural hospitals and panchayat premises.

Rescos are focused on establishing smart decentralised power systems using hybridised renewable energy technologies. They are also responsible for generating and distributing power. The model paves the way for implementing a tower management system that can support steady load as well as 99.9 per cent uptime for mobile phone base stations. It also supports an effective community distribution and collection system.

Moreover, the energy can be used for powering devices for personal communication. The microenterprise segment can use this additional power for charging batteries as well as for agri-processing and manufacturing processes.

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