Telia boasts massive reduction in carbon footprint

Yanitsa Boyadzhieva
By Yanitsa Boyadzhieva

Mar 13, 2023

  • Swedish operator group hails progress made towards its sustainability goals
  • It claims its digital infrastructure and services can manage natural resources in a more sustainable way
  • And says 5G is four times more energy efficient than 4G

Sweden-based telco Telia claims it has cut its carbon dioxide emissions by 85% in just four years by modernising its network, embracing renewable energy, and developing new solutions for increased energy and cost efficiencies.

In its “Annual and sustainability report for 2022", the company noted that the carbon dioxide emissions (CO2e) of its own operations had fallen by 85% compared to 2018 levels. Several factors contributed to the reduction, including the use of renewable electricity to power its networks and datacentres since 2020, as well as brokering new deals to buy wind and solar energy across its operating unit footprint, which covers seven markets in the Nordics and the Baltics.

The company has estimated that the shift to renewable sources of electricity has resulted in a 78% decline in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in its own operations compared to 2018.

It is also making further progress in other parts of its operations that contribute to its emissions, such as back-up power sources and its car fleet. It has initiated pilots for the use of hydrogen as back-up power to replace diesel in selected sites in Norway and Estonia. And for its car fleet, it is moving towards using electric vehicles (EVs), which represented 17% of its total fleet at the end of 2022, while a further 31% were hybrid.

In terms of its network, Telia said modernisation is “essential” for improved efficiencies. “Our 5G network is up to four times more energy efficient than a 4G network in terms of energy per data bit transported,” the report stated. 

It admitted, though, that its total power consumption rose by 4% in 2022 due to the rollout of 5G, but that “the dismantling of older infrastructure helped to offset this.” For instance, the replacements of copper-based networks with mobile and fibre connectivity have saved “substantial amounts of energy” as fibre broadband is estimated to be around 15 times more energy efficient per unit of data transported in comparison with copper networks. In its home market, for instance, this transition has led to “decreased electricity consumption compared to 2012, despite data volumes increasing by 1,800%,” the report stated.

Telia has also been collaborating with battery provider Polarium to develop smart battery solutions in its home market. Pilot programs that focus on peak shaving and load shifting (a strategy for quickly reducing electricity consumption when there is higher demand by switching to alternative power supplies, such as batteries) have brought about “cost reductions of up to 10% to 15%, achieved by charging lithium-ion batteries when prices are low and using stored capacity when demand and prices are high.”

Additionally, delivering internet of things (IoT) solutions for smart buildings and utilities resulted in power consumption reduction of 819 GWh in 2022, according to the report. IoT and services such as remote meetings also saved some 330,000 tonnes of CO2e in 2022. The report also noted that the energy consumption per subscription decreased by 7% compared to 2018 levels.

In terms of the supply chain – typically the part of a telco’s operations that produces the most emissions – Telia claimed that its partners are increasingly committed to science-based climate targets. By the end of 2022, suppliers responsible for 35% of the telco’s supply chain emissions had set environmental goals, and Telia is planning to encourage some 72% of its suppliers to commit to such pledges by 2025.

The company has also made strides in reducing waste, citing some 66% of the waste across its operations, including network construction and maintenance, was reused or recycled in 2022. It aims to achieve zero waste by 2030.

Circular economy-based initiatives and creating a modelling tool to monitor the expected emission curve until 2040 are some of the other efforts it has made towards achieving environmental sustainability in the past year.

“Research shows that digitalisation can accelerate progress related to all of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This report illustrates how Telia’s digital infrastructure and services can be used as a tool to manage natural resources in a more sustainable way and reduce inequalities,” said Sara Nordbrand, group head of sustainability at Telia.

President and CEO at Telia, Allison Kirkby, described the company as “increasingly the most trusted and secure digital infrastructure provider in the Nordics and Baltics.”

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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