Minimising our carbon footprint – Performance in 2014/15

As we grow our business and extend voice and data services for our customers, we are expanding our network and handling more data. To minimise the resulting increases in energy use and carbon emissions, we continue to roll out energy efficiency measures and new technologies across our network. These include smart metering, hybrid generators and tri-generation (combined heat, cooling and power) systems.

At the same time, by extending our carbon-reducing services, we can enable more of our enterprise customers to achieve significant carbon reductions in their own organisations. We have set a new goal for our business, which links our aim to minimise our own carbon footprint with the savings we can help our customers make: 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.

Delivering carbon savings

Research shows that information and communications technology (ICT) can help other industries achieve significant carbon savings. To do so, the ICT sector’s own footprint may need to grow slightly, but this increase is significantly outweighed by the carbon avoided in other sectors1.

With this in mind, we have set a new goal that links our operational emissions with the carbon savings we help our customers make: 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. We aim to achieve this by continuing to increase our customers’ uptake of our carbon-reducing services, such as smart metering and fleet management (see Enabling a low carbon economy), as well as taking steps to minimise our own carbon footprint (see below).

In 2014/15, our carbon-reducing services enabled enterprise customers to avoid generating an estimated 3.5 million2 tonnes of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) – almost 1 million tonnes more than our own net carbon footprint.

Objective Target date
Enable our customers to reduce their carbon emissions by twice the amount of carbon we generate through our own activities. March 2018

Our carbon footprint

Our efforts to improve energy efficiency mean that the overall increase in carbon emissions from our network remains modest compared with the significant growth in data use by our customers and the capacity of our network. In 2014/15, our net carbon footprint increased by 10% to 2.80 million tonnes CO2e. This is in comparison to the volume of data carried by our network, which nearly doubled over the same time period.

The following changes caused an increase in CO2e emissions:

  • a change in the carbon factor for grid electricity in many markets (an increase of 67,000 tonnes of CO2e)
  • the inclusion of emissions from new acquisitions, Kabel Deutschland and Ono (an increase of 100,000 tonnes)
  • carbon increases from the growth in our network (an increase estimated to be 270,000 tonnes).

The following changes caused a decrease in CO2e emissions:

  • energy efficiency measures and the introduction of single RAN (a decrease estimated to be 154,000 tonnes);
  • re-categorisation of emissions from base stations in Tanzania, where the majority of our base stations have been sold to Helios Towers (a decrease of 30,000 tonnes).

Progress against our current objectives is detailed below. Both our business and the policies for carbon accounting have changed significantly since we developed these objectives. As a result we have decided to replace both of our existing objectives with our new goal which we believe better reflects our overall carbon impact (see above).

  • Ongoing
  • Achieved
  • Partial
  • Not achieved
Original Objective Our performance in 2014/15 Status
Reduce CO2 emissions by 50% against the 2006/07 baseline by March 2020 for mature markets1 After adjusting for acquisitions, total CO2 emissions in our mature markets have increased by 6% since 2006/07, mainly as a result of increased expansion of our network services to meet customer demand. Over the same period the volume of data carried by our network has increased more than fifteen-fold. Objective replaced (see new goal above) Our business has changed significantly since we set this objective and we are now replacing it with a new goal that takes into account the emissions reductions our services deliver for our customers as we continue to seek to minimise our own carbon footprint
Reduce CO2 per network node2 by 20% against a 2010/11 baseline by March 2015 for emerging markets3 We have reduced our emissions per network node to 13 tonnes of CO2. This is a 28% reduction from the 2010/11 baseline, exceeding our 20% target for 2015. achieved


  1. Mature markets are: Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the UK.
  2. A single base station site may contain more than one node for each network served (2G, 3G or 4G).
  3. Emerging markets are: Albania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ghana, India, Lesotho, Malta, Mozambique, Qatar, South Africa and Turkey.

Net greenhouse gas emissions (million tonnes CO2e)1

Chart showing the following data

  2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Scope 1 (direct emissions from our operations) 0.41 0.42 0.37
Scope 2 (indirect emissions from purchased energy used in our operations) 1.95 2.13 2.43
Net total Scope 1 & 2 2.362 2.553 2.804


  1. Includes greenhouse gas emissions from network and building energy use, road travel, refrigerants and fire suppressants. KDG and Ono data included for 2015 only. Excludes Indus Towers in India and Helios Towers in Tanzania – both reported as Scope 3.
  2. Excludes refrigerants and fire suppressant emissions from Czech Republic, India, Lesotho, Mozambique, Qatar and Tanzania.
  3. Excludes refrigerants and fire suppressant emissions from India, Lesotho, Qatar and Tanzania. Ghana data estimated as the same as 2012/13.
  4. Excludes refrigerants and fire suppressant emissions from India, Qatar and Tanzania.

Total CO2 emissions (thousand tonnes)1

  2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Gross total Scope 1 & 2 emissions from network and building energy use and fleet fuel use, of which: 2,672 2,858 3,127
Net total CO2 emissions in mature markets 1,010 1,178 1,360
Net total CO2 emissions in emerging markets 1,311 1,303 1,412
CO2 emissions from green tariff energy 351 377 355
Scope 3 emissions (associated with activities outside Vodafone’s direct control):      
Air travel 542 563 553
Shared base station sites in India 1,648 1,463 1,562
Shared base station sites in Tanzania - - 33
  1. Notes on emissions calculations:

    • Gross emissions are total emissions before accounting for any emissions reductions that have been purchased or sold. For grid electricity, emissions are calculated using a kWh to CO2e conversion factor based on one of the following sources (in order of priority):
      • conversion factors provided by our energy suppliers
      • conversion factors provided by governments or other national bodies
      • Defra conversion factors (2014) or IEA (2011) where unavailable.
    • Green tariff energy is electricity purchased under ‘green’ energy tariffs backed by evidence of renewable supply and transmitted through the national grid.
    • Net total emissions are calculated by subtracting emissions from green tariff energy. Calculated based on conversion factors for normal grid electricity, green tariff energy is assumed to have zero emissions. It is unlikely that renewable energy is truly zero carbon; for example, there will be carbon associated with manufacturing and maintaining the renewable energy generator equipment. However, due to the current lack of clear international guidance on how to estimate the carbon emissions associated with renewable energy, it is counted as zero carbon here.
  2. Excludes data from India, Qatar and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
  3. Excludes data from India and Qatar.

Understanding our energy use

In 2014/15, we continued the rollout of smart meters across our network. Now installed at 50,389 of our base stations, these meters provide detailed information on energy use, helping us to identify and target opportunities to reduce consumption through a central management platform. For example, we used data from smart meters at 199 sites in Portugal to identify efficiencies that are cutting energy consumption by around 25% and saving up to £99,000 a year. All newly constructed base stations now have smart meters installed as standard and we will continue to roll them out over the next few years.

We have also deployed smart meters or sub-metering at more than 60% of our technology centre sites to give us a detailed understanding of our energy consumption. By monitoring the energy use of equipment such as air conditioners, lights or servers, we can identify and address inefficiencies, for example from underused servers.

We also offer smart metering solutions to our enterprise customers to help them monitor and reduce their energy use. See Enabling a low carbon economy.

Energy use in 2014/15 (GWh)

Chart showing the following data

  2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Network base stations 3,064 3,202 3,657
Technology centres 1,116 1,485 1,644
Offices 462 457 474
Retail 81 74 78
Total 4,723 5,218 5,853

Energy use by source in 2014/15 (GWh)

Chart showing the following data

  2012/13 2013/14 2014/15
Grid 3,557 4,127 4,667
Grid renewable 755 680 756
On-site renewable 4 6 6
Diesel and petrol 302 287 284
Other 105 118 140
Total 4,723 5,218 5,853

Improving energy efficiency

In 2014/15, we continued to introduce energy efficiency measures throughout our operations including at our base stations, technology centres and offices.

Initiatives across our network of more than 283,000 base station sites included:

  • installing efficient Single RAN technology (allowing multiple network radio technologies, 2G, 3G and 4G to be run from a single base station), which is now operational at 112,743 sites across the Group
  • activating new energy-saving software features – such as transceivers that switch-off automatically in periods of low traffic – across our Single RAN sites, reducing the energy use of each base station by up to 10%
  • rolling out free cooling technology at a further 3,017 base station sites, saving between 2,000kWh and 3,500kWh of energy per year per site by reducing the need for air conditioning
  • installing 426 more batteries that can withstand higher temperatures (up to 35°C) to reduce the need for air conditioning at base stations in hot countries, bringing the total to 2,168
  • deploying hybrid solutions – a combination of diesel generators and batteries that cut diesel use by up to 70% per site – at a further 8,275 sites. These are now in place at around 13,275 base station sites across the Group.

In focus: Vodafone Italy received an Energy Saving Award

In November 2014, Vodafone Italy received the ‘White Certificate for Energy Efficient Industry’ award in the ‘Best project submitted by an organisation with energy managers’ category, from the Italian Federation for the Rational Use of Energy (FIRE). ‘White Certificates’ are issued to certify energy savings achieved through energy efficiency initiatives and was awarded to Vodafone Italy for the energy savings achieved by swapping legacy radio equipment for new, more energy efficient technology (SRAN swap).

Carbon emissions from energy use in our technology centres – our data centres and switching sites – accounted for approximately 28% of our total emissions in 2014/15 and are projected to grow as demand increases for our data services.

A common measure of technology centre efficiency is power usage effectiveness (PUE), the proportion of energy used to power computer equipment as opposed to the energy use of an entire site, including ancillary functions such as cooling. In 2014/15, we continued to improve the PUE at our global and regional data centres in Germany, Ireland, Italy and the UK, lowering the average from 1.49 to 1.46. We have also achieved an average of 1.69 in over 500 technology centres worldwide by introducing a range of energy efficiency initiatives. Examples of these initiatives include:

  • integrating energy efficiency requirements in our supplier selection process for equipment
  • implementing innovations such as adiabatic cooling (which transfers heat), dynamic thermal management systems and eco-mode features on power conversion systems to improve overall site infrastructure efficiency
  • replacing the air conditioning units used to cool our computer rooms with new more efficient models and implementing free cooling at most sites
  • increasing maximum air temperature before air conditioning turns on from 20°C to 28°C at global data centres in Germany, India, Ireland, Italy and South Africa, and from 20°C to 25°C in switching sites worldwide
  • improving the virtualisation ratio – the number of virtual servers compared with physical servers – from 57% in 2013/14 to 63% in 2014/15, making more effective use of space at our global data centres and reducing the need for physical infrastructure.

We also aim to minimise CO2 emissions from other areas of our business, including employee travel, office energy use and IT impacts. We increased the use of remote collaboration technologies by almost 17% in 2014/15, with employees using video conferencing for an estimated 108,333 hours a month. CO2 emissions from our business air travel has remained largely constant over the past three years, despite the number of employees increasing by over 10%.

Our flexible working programmes in several markets are helping to reduce energy use and emissions from offices and employee commuting. We are using these programmes to showcase the potential of our technology to bring similar benefits for our customers through our smart working solutions (see our Enterprise website).

We also aim to reduce the overall impact on the environment from our office buildings. For example, our new Czech headquarters in Prague, which opened in 2014/15, is certified to the Gold standard by the LEED green buildings organisation. Our Site Solution Innovation Centre in South Africa has previously been awarded the maximum six stars from the Green Building Council of South Africa.

Targeting emissions reduction through innovation

In 2014/15, we continued to partner with suppliers to develop new technologies at our Site Solution Innovation Centre in South Africa and trial those solutions in our local markets. These include:

  • air conditioners that use up to 75% less energy by running on both alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) power
  • solar upgrade kits that enable us to attach solar panels to existing sites that already use hybrid generators to further reduce diesel consumption
  • dynamic thermal management, which balances the distribution of air to optimise cooling
  • a more efficient way of hosting new network virtualisation and cloud services
  • generators that use alternative fuels, such as hydrogen fuel cells, to reduce diesel consumption and microturbines that produce power more efficiently than traditional diesel generators
  • alternative energy storage technology, such as different types of batteries that are more resilient and have a longer lifespan than conventional rechargeable batteries.

A number of the solutions we have piloted are now being used extensively in our local markets. For example, the power cube we developed is now installed at 539 base station sites across Egypt and South Africa. This compact hybrid generator can reduce the running time of a diesel generator by up to 82%, save up to 93% on servicing costs and cut fuel consumption by more than 50%. In South Africa, 273 fuel cells are deployed, the majority being methanol based systems and some hydrogen systems.

We have also installed more efficient filters that extend the life of base station equipment and reduce the need for maintenance trips. Our 6,000 new active antennas, which integrate radio equipment into the antenna rather than in a separate unit attached by cables, are cutting energy consumption by up to 30% per site.

As we expand our networks into more rural areas, we are exploring opportunities to use renewable power generated at our base stations to bring power to remote communities without electricity. In the first three years of operating a trial site in South Africa, we cut monthly diesel use by 86%, labour costs for maintenance by 57% and CO2 emissions by 86%. There have also been significant benefits to the community. Following the success of this community power pilot, we plan to launch a second trial site in 2015/16 that will provide power to a local school.

In focus: Harnessing hydrogen power in the Netherlands

Fuel cells offer a number of advantages over traditional diesel generators as they are cleaner, quieter and less prone to fuel theft. In urban environments, where limited space hinders the use of solar or wind power, hydrogen fuel cells also help reduce carbon emissions.

In South Africa, fuel cell deployment started eight years ago with the introduction of pure hydrogen fuel cell systems. More recently, methanol-based fuel cells are being used to reduce the need to regularly swap hydrogen cylinders. The methanol-based fuel cells use a reformer to generate hydrogen on site, as and when required by the fuel cell. These fuel cells are simpler to service as refilling the tanks with the diluted methanol mixture is easier than transporting heavy hydrogen cylinders over long distances.

Vodafone Netherlands is also piloting innovative technology that uses hydrogen fuel cells to power our base stations in an urban environment. Trialled in partnership with Ericsson, Locquet and Air Liquide, this zero emissions technology splits water into oxygen and hydrogen and uses the hydrogen to generate electricity. The only by-product is warm water. This technology is expected to cut emissions from the first pilot base station in Rotterdam by 30 tonnes a year.

Using renewable energy

To reduce our reliance on carbon intensive energy sources, we promote the use of small-scale renewable energy to power our network. We installed solar power at a further 233 sites in 2014/15. On-site renewable energy is still only used at a small proportion of our base station sites, but we are developing a capital investment programme to support the deployment of renewable technology across our network.

The quantity of renewable energy we use as a proportion of our total energy consumption has remained relatively stable at 13%. In 2014/15, we invested in renewable power purchase agreements in the UK to source part of the energy for our UK business from wind. This investment is the first of its kind for Vodafone and we are exploring further opportunities to support the development of renewable power and therefore reduce risks related to energy price increases.


  1. Carbon Connections research (pdf, 1.9 MB), July 2009
  2. This total is based on analysis with the Carbon Trust on four solutions: smart metering, smart logistics and fleet management, call conferencing, cloud and hosting services. See Enabling a low carbon economy.