According to reports, the Department of Telecom is looking at the possibility of extending viability gap funding to telecom tower firms for speeding up adoption of renewable energy.
The support could be provided either from the Universal Services Obligation fund or from the various schemes under the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE).
The Tower and Infrastructure Providers Association (TAIPA) has estimated that the telecom companies would need Rs 33,000 crore to meet the green initiative targets set by the DoT.
Tower companies are supposed to power 50 per cent of rural towers and 20 per cent of urban towers by hybrid power (renewable energy + grid power) by 2015. Minimum 75 per cent of rural towers and 33 per cent of urban towers are to be powered by hybrid power by 2020.
There are 7.42 lakh mobile base station and 5.85 lakh mobile towers across the country. Of this 3.5 lakh towers are in rural areas. The power requirement of the base station is 1-3 kilowatt each day. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, it takes 8,760 litres of diesel annually to run these towers.
To cut down on carbon emissions and costs, private telecom companies are doing pilot projects for running the towers through renewable energy. The Tower Pune-based Creative Mark Engineering Solutions and Mahindra & Mahindra have been selected by private telecom tower companies for supplying renewable energy. Tower companies, including Indus, Bharti Infratel, American Tower Corporation and Viom, had floated a joint proposal for the project.
Under this project, the renewable energy service company (rescos) will set up renewable energy-based power plants near the telecom towers and sell power to the telecom company at a pre-determined cost on a pay-per-use model. The power generated by the rescos will be off-grid. But additional power generated by them can also be sold to commercial users living in areas where the power plants are located.
The TAIPA had floated the Request for Proposal inviting NGOs and private green power companies to generate and supply off-grid power to telecom towers in the country.
The Ministry of Communication has now set up a committee comprising officials from DoT, MNRE and the industry to work out the modalities to expand such projects across the country. The Government has already given infrastructure status to the tower companies that makes it easier for them to get viability gap funding.