September 27, 2023

AI and the Pursuit of GHG Targets


As the digital transformation continues with the expansion of 5G services across mature and developing markets, we’re facing an unprecedented challenge: how to reconcile the significantly increased energy demands of 5G networks with the environmental necessity of reducing GHG emissions.  

The introduction of power-hungry MIMO antennas, the need for additional equipment such as radio units, baseband and servers, the in-fill required due to small 5G cell size, the application of data chopping techniques and the explosion of internet connected devices all place a heavy energy burden on the shoulders of tower network providers. Some of this increase will be offset by changing usage behaviour – such as more people working from home rather than commuting – but the consensus is that 5G is going to push energy tower consumption in the wrong direction, with a “5G base station expected to consume roughly three times as much power as a 4G base station”(1).

All this at a time when tower operators are striving to reduce their carbon footprint and meet the ambitious emission targets essential to tackle global warming.


The 2016 Paris Agreement (2) – the most expansive legally binding international treaty since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997– lays out a roadmap for saving the planet. It posits that we can stabilise the climate if we completely decarbonise our energy sectors by the middle of the century. Although astonishingly bold, this is not an impossible target. The path to massive GHG emissions reductions lies in the use of renewable resources – if we can increase the world’s share of renewable energy sources sixfold by 2030, we can immediately halve global greenhouse gas emissions.

The use of renewable resources is now mainstream, and we can see significant progress in many places around the world. According to the CDP “Of the 620+ global cities reporting to CDP, over 100 now get at least 70% of their electricity from renewable sources such as hydro, geothermal, solar and wind. We expect to see even more cities targeting a clean energy future. Cities not only want to transition to renewable energy but, most importantly (as our data shows), they can.” (3)

This accelerating transformation is fuelled (excuse the pun) in part by the rapidly falling costs of renewable energy, which in many parts of the world competes with fossil fuels without any financial support or government subsidies. As renewable resources make a genuine impact on corporate bottom lines, the decision to employ them becomes a much easier one to make.

The shift to using renewable resources is not without its challenges of course, especially when compared to the convenience and ease of fossil fuels. Power generation from natural sources can’t be controlled by humans: for example, we can’t make the sun shine or the wind blow whenever we want. The quality of the power is usually inconsistent, and renewable resources are almost always dictated or limited by geographical location.

The key to overcoming many of these barriers is not technology associated with the renewable resource itself (e.g.the photovoltaic efficiency of a solar cell or the wind dynamics of a turbine) but the technology used to manage, store, redirect and prioritise the various power delivering elements of complex hybrid power systems. The telecommunications sector is a great example. We’re ripe for new technology that can bring our GHG emissions down in the next few years not simply by adopting more renewable resources, but by using the resources we already have more effectively.


Facing increased energy demands – not least from the roll-out of 5G – our industry’s implementation of renewable resources has increased admirably in recent years. But putting solar panels, wind turbines and battery storage into the mix simply isn’t enough to meet the goals laid out in the Paris Agreement, nor deliver the real benefits of using renewable resources. What the industry is looking for now is technology that can integrate and coordinate all these renewable resources together – squeezing every drop of efficiency out of individual towers and interconnected networks so that GHG emissions are minimised.

We see this in real life deployments of solar energy production and storage: even the most optimised network operations see solar production impacted by adverse conditions or deterioration of equipment in the field which can nearly halve solar production. By deploying technology to orchestrate how energy assets are used and to detect what specific faults or inefficiencies impact production, we help TowerCos ensure they maintain renewable energy production in the high 80-90% efficiency range consistently over the life span of these assets.

PowerX’s leading data intelligence platform for optimising energy-related assets at scale in multi-site environments helps customers deliver continuous, sustainable enterprise improvements to redefine power performance and ensure their investments in renewables are fully utilised to reduce GHG emissions. Our technology cuts through vast, complex data sets to provide real-time visibility across an entire site portfolio at scale. It automates granular insights into the operation of individual sites and prioritises specific actions managed to resolution.

In real-life, it means NOC and power engineers can rapidly detect hidden inefficiencies or faults and service engineers are equipped with the root cause to fix issues fast (such as repair electrical faults or faulty controllers, re-orientate incorrectly installed panels, dynamically adjust battery storage settings to maximise solar production and so on). Added together, these data-driven improvements, automated at scale across the network, ensure a high solar production ratio is maintained. This leads to a decrease in grid consumption and diesel (where generators are used), thereby decreasing emissions by 10-30% across a network. All these reductions are fully auditable – available to engineers and COOs at the touch of a button, helping you meet corporate goals and regulatory requirements.

If we’re to hit the targets laid out in the Paris Agreement and make genuine, wide scale reductions in emissions, we need to start using innovative technology that goes beyond simply tapping into renewable resources. Artificial Intelligence may be the key to unlocking the benefits of a carbon-free future, all whilst meeting the increasingly high energy demands of advanced 5G networks.

(1) Spectrum - 5G is a Battery Vampire

(2) United Nations Climate Change - Paris Agreement

(3) CDP - The World's Renewable Energy Cities

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