Minimising our carbon footprint

We aim to minimise the carbon footprint of our operations by investing in energy efficiency and renewable power across our networks

Minimising our carbon footprint – Our approach

As we grow our business, we are using our technology to enable more of our enterprise customers to reduce their carbon emissions. At the same time, we aim to minimise the carbon footprint of our own operations by improving the energy efficiency of our network and using more renewable energy.

We are working towards a new goal for our carbon footprint: within three years we aim to enable our customers to reduce their carbon emissions by twice the amount of carbon we generate through our own activities. To find out more about the carbon-reducing products and services we offer, see Enabling a low carbon economy.

Carbon emissions from our network of base stations and technology centres (which include switching sites and data centres) together account for more than 87% of our own carbon footprint. Across our network, we are investing in more efficient equipment, trialling new technologies that reduce energy use and exploring options to produce more on-site renewable energy, where viable.

Read on to find out more about our approach. Or go to Performance to read about our progress in 2014/15.

Improving energy efficiency

We are investing in more efficient equipment, deploying energy-saving software features and introducing innovative on-site energy generation at our base stations and in our technology centres.

At the Vodafone Site Solution Innovation Centre in South Africa, our network innovation teams collaborate with external partners and suppliers to develop and test new technologies that will help us further reduce our energy use and carbon footprint. Reducing our reliance on diesel is an important focus as many of our base stations depend on diesel generators for primary or back-up power, particularly in emerging markets where there is limited access to reliable grid electricity.

The efficiency measures we are rolling out across our base station sites include:

  • single RAN (radio access network) base stations that combine 2G, 3G and 4G technologies
  • energy-saving software features that make better use of radio resource channels according to real traffic needs
  • more efficient energy storage with high-temperature resistant batteries
  • free cooling that reduces the need for energy-intensive air conditioning by using fresh air to cool network equipment
  • hybrid power systems, which combine diesel generators with batteries for greater fuel efficiency and use smart energy controllers to cut diesel use by up to 70%
  • smart energy controllers that enable remote monitoring and control of equipment to maintain optimum performance
  • sharing network equipment with other operators (see Network deployment).

As demand for our voice and data services continues to grow from consumers and enterprise customers, we are handling more and more data at our 500 technology centres worldwide. To do this as efficiently as possible, we are:

  • reducing the number of physical servers needed by using more virtual servers – secure servers hosted remotely and accessed via the internet – that reduce the need for physical infrastructure in our own data centres
  • installing more efficient hardware and technology
  • implementing innovative infrastructure, site design and systems for power and cooling (such as Dynamic Thermal Management which optimises the use of air conditioning)
  • increasing our use of free cooling and upgrading equipment to new, more energy-efficient models
  • rationalising our portfolio of buildings and technology centres for optimum efficiency.

See Performance to find out about our progress in 2014/15.

Using renewable energy

To reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and cut related carbon emissions we are switching to renewable energy sources to power our base stations and technology centres. In some markets, we purchase green electricity from the grid.

A small but growing number of our base stations use renewable energy, mostly solar and wind power. This approach is more economically viable in emerging markets, reducing the need for diesel generators in remote areas where grid supplies may be unavailable or unreliable.

Our technology centres use large amounts of energy, but most are in urban environments where limited space hinders the use of solar or wind power. We are therefore exploring the use of innovative alternatives, such as tri-generation (combined heat, cooling and power production) and hydrogen fuel cells, to help us cut carbon emissions from these sites.

In some markets, we purchase electricity from the grid (see below) that is generated from renewable sources (known as green tariff electricity). At Group, we prioritise improving the energy efficiency of our networks and working to help our enterprise customers reduce their CO2 emissions (see Enabling a low carbon economy).

In focus: Green tariff electricity and carbon accounting

There are uncertainties surrounding the carbon accounting of green tariff electricity because of a risk of counting the carbon saving both in the company accounts and as part of national or country accounts. We therefore report both a gross and net total for our CO2 emissions to enhance transparency (see Performance). The Greenhouse Gas Protocol’s standard for reporting Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions, published in January 2015, seeks to address the issue of double counting. We aim to review and incorporate relevant recommendations from this standard in our future reporting.

Minimising business travel

We reduce the need for business travel – and associated greenhouse gas emissions – by equipping our offices with technology to enable our people to communicate and work together with colleagues around the world. Our unified communications system combines internal voice, data and video applications into one online experience so employees can contact colleagues through voice, video, instant messaging or web-based conferencing programmes.