At Huawei’s Win-Win Innovation Week, Ryan Ding, President of Carrier BG, Huawei, gave a presentation entitled “Green ICT for New Value.”
Ding began by asserting that throughout history, every major advancement has been accompanied by a significant improvement in the energy efficiency of information transmission technologies. If ‘energy efficiency’ refers to the amount of information transmitted over a single unit of energy, Ding noted that we have come a long way since bamboo clips and paper in the agricultural age to the internet of the industrial age. Moving forward, digital technologies like 5G, F5G, and AI will help more and more industries push the boundaries of the physical world, bringing us closer to a digital age. Ding claimed that we are now at a critical juncture where we need to increase energy efficiency so that we can transmit more information without driving a huge increase in energy consumption.
The digitalization of industry presents an unprecedented challenge, with energy consumption skyrocketing as the demand for data increases. With the whole world working to fight climate change, the ICT industry must achieve a carbon peak and eventually carbon neutrality. Ding cited research conducted by a third party that forecast data traffic from digital services to reach 612 ZB - a 13-fold increase - by 2030. According to the ITU, the ICT industry must reduce its carbon emissions by at least 45% by 2030 to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. In the next five to ten years, the increase in carbon emissions generated by exploding data traffic will become a global problem that must be tackled.
Increasing energy efficiency will be the way forward. Fossil fuels still account for a large share of our existing energy mix, and the Alternative Energy Revolution is not expected to progress quickly enough over the next decade to keep up with demand. So, in the meantime, we need to figure out how to make our existing infrastructure more energy efficient. The International Energy Agency holds that energy efficiency is the "first fuel": It is currently our best tool for addressing this conflict between increasing energy consumption and green development, and represents more than 40% of the emissions abatement needed in the next decade.
This also applies to telecom networks. To reduce the carbon footprint of ICT infrastructure, our top priority needs to be increasing energy efficiency. For operators, this requires three steps. First, they improve the energy efficiency of their sites, networks, and operations based on their analysis of traffic generation patterns. Second, they need to reduce their total carbon emissions, absolute power consumption, and increase their use of "green" electricity. Third, they must support the establishment of a unified indicator system, as this would help establish baselines against which energy efficiency can be measured.
Improving energy efficiency will deliver three main benefits to operators. They will be able to achieve direct OPEX savings by reducing network power consumption, upgrading their sites, and migrating 2G/3G customers onto 4G/5G services – the latter of which will also be facilitated by improved energy efficiency. Additionally, operators will be able to better fulfil their social responsibilities as reducing their carbon footprint will positively impact the environment.
Ding outlined the three-layer solution proposed by Huawei to help operators improve network energy efficiency, which focuses on green sites, green networks, and green operations.
The vendor has developed solutions to improve site energy efficiency by adopting a highly integrated design, using new materials, and moving main equipment and power supply units outdoors. In addition, its network architecture makes forwarding faster and supports the construction of all-optical, simplified, and intelligent networks. At the operations level, Huawei offers a solution that generates and distributes optimization policies while making energy efficiency more visualized and manageable.
So far, these green solutions have been deployed by operators in more than 100 countries. In Germany, for example, Huawei's PowerStar solution has helped realize minute-level energy efficiency self-optimization, improving energy efficiency by 7%. In Spain, Huawei's optical cross-connect (OXC) solution has been deployed on a customer's backbone network, increasing energy efficiency by 81% and reducing costs by 29%. In Turkey, Huawei has deployed its green site solution for a customer, replacing their equipment rooms with cabinets and eliminating the need for equipment rooms and air conditioners. The solution is expected to save 19,000 kWh of electricity per site per year.
Operators will benefit a lot from energy efficiency improvements within their own infrastructure. More importantly, ICT solutions can enable emissions reductions in other industries that are 10 times the size of the ICT industry's own emissions – a concept that Huawei refers to as a "carbon handprint". Huawei and its operator partners are already working together to empower other industries to reduce carbon footprints using industry-specific solutions. Many success stories have already been seen in key industries like ports, coal mining, and steel.
For example, the Port of Tianjin built an automated fleet consisting of 76 unmanned container trucks by using 5G provided by China Mobile and autonomous driving technologies, which can drive smoothly within a limited area. The benefits of this solution are tangible: Power consumption per container in the automated driving area is down by 20%, overall operation costs are down 10%, and operation efficiency is up by 15%.
At Jinnan Iron and Steel, workers used to have to transport hot metal ladles by hand. That process was long and inefficient as the heat from these ladles dissipates quickly. This was not good for energy saving and emissions reduction. With the support of China Unicom's 5G-based intelligent scheduling system, workers can now remotely control ladle transfer cars and monitor them in real time. The time required for transportation has been cut from half an hour to seven minutes.
At Zhunneng Group, China Telecom's 5G-based autonomous mining trucks and remote control solution are being used to reduce fuel consumption by 10%, which is expected to save 900 million yuan in costs over the next five years.
These stories are all part of Huawei's efforts to help operators and industries increase energy efficiency. The vendor is also working to make its own production and operations more energy efficient, with an increasing use of renewable energy in its Chinese factories.
At Huawei's Southern Factory in Dongguan, almost all of the rooftops are covered with distributed solar panels, which together offset over 30,000 tons of carbon emissions every year. The vendor is also working to increase the energy efficiency of our operations, for example by building centralized labs to replace its older decentralized research infrastructure. Huawei’s new energy-saving technologies are helping bring the power usage effectiveness (PUE) of our labs from 2 to 1.24, saving more than 290 million kWh of electricity every year, and its Chengdu research center is now fully powered by renewable energy. Every year, over 200 million kWh of hydro power is supplied to the center, equivalent to offsetting 177,000 tons of carbon emissions.
Ding concluded by calling on the whole industry to pay more attention to energy efficiency. He noted that establishing an industry-wide indicator system would help set baselines against which energy efficiency can be measured and serve as a guide for the green development of the ICT industry as a whole.