As the global climate crisis has escalated, state and local governments have enacted a variety of laws aimed at curbing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, in efforts to promote clean energy and efficient power usage.
Buildings account for about 40% of global CO2 emissions.
According to data from the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 33 states have either released a climate action plan or are in the process of revising or developing one. Meanwhile, 24 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted specific greenhouse gas emissions targets. A major focus of many of these initiatives has been reducing energy usage in commercial and industrial buildings. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), buildings currently account for about 39% of global CO2 emissions; building operations are responsible for 28%, while building materials and construction adding another 11%.
New York’s Local Law 97 (LL97) is one example of how governments are responding to calls for climate action. Under this law, most buildings larger than 25,000 square feet will be required to meet new energy efficiency and greenhouse gas emission limits by 2024, with further tightening in 2030.
The service provider’s role in promoting sustainable business practices
While positive, localized government efforts have had incremental effects on the problem, global industry sectors stand to make a much greater impact. This is where the world’s major ICT players can have a significant effect on sustainability.
The telecom industry was among the first global sectors to address its impact on climate change. In 2016, the mobile telecommunications industry became the first to commit to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), setting an industry target of net-zero emissions by 2050.
While many large industries see adaption to climate transformation as a burden, for the telecom operators, the opportunities outweigh the costs.
Some may argue that these efforts fall short, considering the environmental impact of trends such as the huge increase in mobile and broadband infrastructure. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the industry’s current carbon footprint is relatively small compared to the potential for reduction in GHG emissions. As reported in a 2021 article in Fierce Wireless:
“The ICT sector only accounts for 1.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, but has the potential to enable up to 15% reduction in overall global carbon emissions by 2030 and indirectly support a further reduction of 35% by influencing consumers and businesses to make sustainable choices This makes ICT one of the most powerful and scalable tools for decarbonization of the global economy.”
According to US management consulting firm Oliver Wyman: “While many large industries see adaption to climate transformation as a burden, for the telecom industry, the opportunities outweigh the costs.” In its research, the company points to several factors that could enable telecom operators to play a significant role in addressing the problem. Among the potential opportunities is reducing the environmental impact of operating their networks.
A reduction in environmental impact can also increase attractiveness to the investment community by increasing the firm’s Environment/Social/Governance (ESG) score. The investment community has adopted the ESG measure as a guideline for decision making. Higher ESG scores reflect companies who manage risks well, allowing them to be agile and proactive to market needs while minimizing impact to society and the environment. This measure is becoming increasingly important to institutional investors as a proxy for long-term performance potential.
Being investor- and climate-driven, ESG is fundamentally a forward-looking Integrated Risk Management (IRM) approach to discern which companies are likely to thrive and which are likely to decline in a world growing in environmental and social uncertainty. ESG is more concentrated on the ability to sense and anticipate what is needed to prosper without doing harm to people and planet than it is about backwards looking control frameworks.
Complying with CO2 Targets through Network Modernization
Many networks still contain a great deal of legacy SONET/TDM equipment that lacks the energy efficiency and density of today’s equipment, resulting in a much larger carbon footprint.
For example: Two OC-48/192 ADMs in a single rack draw roughly 18 amps or 7,569 kWh per year. HVAC support consumes two times the amount of the equipment, resulting in consumption of 22,706 kWh annually. This single rack accounts for 10.7 tons of CO2 emissions each year. (Each kWh generates 1.582 pounds of CO2 based on the weighted average between natural gas and coal generating sources. This calculation also accounts for 40% carbon-neutral generation. Locations determine precise footprint size.)
Until now, service providers had limited options for modernizing a legacy SONET/SDH network. Many of them, understandably, opted to do nothing. But now that the available options for network modernization (whether used individually or in combination) allow providers to continue delivering legacy TDM services, in addition to OTN and Ethernet services, while preparing their network for the future.
Migrating away from TDM-based systems offers a host of benefits, from vastly improved network management and operations to reclamation of valuable real estate. Moreover, eliminating older TDM equipment is a low-cost, high-ROI endeavor. Modernizing the network through Circuit Emulation Migration (CEM), for example, can significantly reduce the network’s GHG emissions and carbon footprint. Compared to the power consumption example described above, the power draw of Ethernet-based equipment using CEM reduces the emission footprint by 90% (based on Cisco’s Network Convergence System 4200 series equipment).
How to measure progress
While carriers have long understood the performance benefits, if not the environmental benefits, of modernizing their older patchwork of equipment, committing to such an undertaking, is in many ways a leap of faith. A project such as circuit emulation is a major undertaking that can involve hundreds of thousands of circuits and take years to complete. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and carriers need to be able to assess their progress periodically in order to justify the time and cost.
A report by the UN Specialized Agency for ICTs echoes the importance of quantifying the effects of measures such as network modernization. “Energy intensity – or the amounts of energy needed to operate a network – is measurable in several ways, including consumption per customer and per data volume. Other key indicators include renewable energy shares, percentages of refurbished network equipment, and the network’s overall carbon intensity.”
Network modernization is not a question of “if” but “when” and “who”
Given the current data handling requirements of carrier networks and the escalating pace of climate change, older TDM/SONET-based telecom infrastructure is literally unsustainable. To survive and thrive, networks must break free from the old circuit-switched architectures.
Fujitsu’s Network Modernization service provides expert help successfully planning and implementing these complex and often challenging projects. Our vendor-agnostic approach supports platforms from multiple vendors, allowing us to recommend and implement the best solution to meet your unique goals.
Remember, with each piece of TDM equipment removed, you move a step closer to a higher performing network and a more sustainable future.
For more information, see how to get started with network modernization.