Vodafone Ireland is part of a new initiative aimed at making the vision of a sustainable, low-carbon society a reality.
The Irish Corporate Leaders on Climate Change group brings together business leaders from a broad cross-section of Irish-based enterprises.
It aims to trigger step-change in policy and action needed to meet the threat posed by climate change and to grasp the business opportunities created by moving to a low climate-risk economy.
The group recently produced a report, Unlocking Opportunity: the Business Case for Climate Action in Ireland, which showed that up to 90,000 jobs could be created by clear climate action by Irish business and the Government.
The report says these employment gains would be underpinned by significant innovation and skills development, the opening of markets and operational and commercial benefits for Irish business.
It sets out a seven-pillar framework for climate change actions and assesses the types and significance of opportunities for business in the period to 2050.
This framework addresses key aspects of the economy including the power supply system, transport, renewable energy, construction, finance and agriculture.
The key benefits evaluated in the report include job-creation, competitiveness gains and exports, efficiency and productivity gains, innovation, supply chain development, energy security, health benefits, reductions in fuel poverty and greater regional development.
"We have an opportunity to galvanise the development and deployment of new business models, processes, techniques, technologies and practices, which will be increasingly required to drive decarbonisation across the globe," says report author, economist Joseph Curtin.
“There is significant potential for export growth in this area. But domestic deployment comes first. Countries that export cleantech have built their successes by first deploying the technologies at home – there is no room for shortcuts.”
Benefits and opportunities
According to Curtin, the benefits and opportunities presented by decarbonisation are sometimes neglected in the debate on climate action, which has tended to focus exclusively on cost.
“Climate action has been seen as something which countries have to do,” he says. “If you don’t act now the cost of inaction grows over time. But the paradigm is now changing quite significantly. The costs of climate change action are falling, mainly as a result of a decline in the costs of the associated technologies. There has also been a major shift from the cost paradigm to the opportunity paradigm.”
He mentions Sweden as an example of this shift. Some 30 years ago the country was almost entirely dependent on fossil fuel sources for its energy and, driven mainly by supply security fears rather than climate concerns, the country moved to address this.
"The country looked at the areas where it already held competitive advantages and chose to build on these. One area was biomass and the other was heat pumps. Sweden is now the largest exporter of heat pumps in Europe.
“Ireland has a similar advantage in relation to the smart grid, for example, and we should build on that. We are not asking the Government to do anything that it is not already doing except to do it in a more strategic manner and to focus on the opportunities rather than the costs.”
Vodafone is helping to lead the innovation charge in the development of a smart electricity grid. At the core of the smart grid is the integration of ICT into the network to enable financial and informational transactions among consumers, grid assets, and other users. This can facilitate the more optimal use of network assets, thereby allowing consumers to be offered lower electricity prices when the wind is blowing, for example.
The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland has estimated that more than 10,000 jobs will be created by the implementation of smart grid infrastructure and its associated technologies. In addition, up to 8 million tonnes of CO2 could be offset annually while a net reduction in energy imports of €5.2 billion each year could also be achieved.
From the export point of view the global smart grid market has experienced double-digit growth rates over the past five years and is expected to continue expanding at 20 per cent per annum until 2020. The “Unlocking Opportunity” report concludes that Ireland could act as a test bed for the deployment of smart grid technologies, thus attracting foreign direct investment and driving exports of skills, expertise and technologies.
Vodafone’s membership of the Irish Corporate Leaders on Climate Change group is part of its commitment to environmental sustainability, according to
, director of commercial operations with Vodafone Ireland.
“In December 2012, we completed a project to make the existing heating, ventilation and cooling systems in our headquarters in Leopardstown more efficient. This resulted in energy savings of 14 per cent (1.4GWh) annually. The project put our HQ into ‘green mode’ converting it from a static building to a dynamic one which automatically adapts to changes in occupancy and outside weather. We were very proud to win an EnviroCom Award in the energy category in October 2013 for this project.”
The work hasn’t stopped there. Network equipment is currently being swapped for more energy-efficient models allowing the company to provide more capacity but with the same energy usage.
“Working with our suppliers, we’re replacing our network equipment with more energy-efficient models and this allows us to provide additional services like 4G and ‘data where we have voice’ with no increases in energy use,” says Henry.
“Vodafone Energy Data Management, which is a machine-to-machine product, monitors 80 of our sites and we use this data to verify energy savings across our network. An IT simplification project is reducing the number of servers in our data centres which results in further energy consumption reductions.
“Other innovative solutions are being deployed to reduce energy usage and environmental impact with cooling system efficiency being improved through the use of free cooling on 87 per cent of network sites.
“This blows outside air into the room removing the need for air conditioning units. We now have wind turbines powering six of our network sites and we purchase 100 per cent green energy across all operations under our control.”