AT&T, Sprint propel renewable energy efforts

Sprint said its wind power agreement with Duke Energy Renewables will enable the carrier to achieve about 30% renewable energy for its total electricity portfolio. (Getty Images)

Carriers and vendors, including AT&T, Sprint and Nokia, have stepped up their respective efforts to reduce their carbon footprints and environmental impact, with new emission reduction commitments and renewable power projects.

The moves coincide with Climate Week and the UN Climate Action Summit, which kick off in New York City today.

AT&T and Sprint last week each announced separate wind energy deals with Duke Energy Renewables, while Nokia on Monday pledged to reset its emission reduction targets to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

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AT&T said new Virtual Power Purchase Agreements (VPPAs) with Invenergy and Duke Energy Renewables mean the carrier’s renewable energy purchases will surpass 1.5 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy capacity.

The deal with Invenergy will support wind and solar power projects delivering 800 megawatts (MW) of sustainable energy, while the 15-year Duke deal supports 160 MWs of wind energy from the Frontier Windpower II project in Kay County, Oklahoma. This is another step in AT&T’s previous renewable energy commitments and “helps solidify AT&T's position as one of the largest corporate purchasers of renewable energy in the U.S.,” according to Joe Taylor, AT&T’s VP of global infrastructure optimization and implementation.

“Large-scale renewable energy investments are a key area of opportunity for achieving a low-carbon economy and are critically important to help us secure a world of no more than 1.5 degrees C warming,” said Helen Clarkson, CEO of The Climate Group, the international non-profit which runs Climate Week NYC, in a statement.

Sprint’s 12-year VPPA with Duke is for 173.3 MW of new wind energy. Sprint said the agreement for the 182-MW Maryneal Windpower project in Nolan County, Texas, will enable the carrier to achieve about 30% renewable energy for its total electricity portfolio and reduce its carbon footprint.

"Sprint is serious about minimizing its carbon impact, and operating as a more sustainable company," said Sprint Foundation Chairman Doug Michelman in a statement. "This wind project will help us make substantial progress towards offsetting the energy we use across our operations, including our headquarters, retail stores, call centers and cell towers."

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Both Duke energy projects are expected to be fully operational by December 2020.

Other U.S. operators previously pledged to limit their impact on the environment, including T-Mobile, which at the start of 2018 promised to use renewable electricity to meet 100% of its energy needs by 2021.

Nokia, meanwhile, is among the first of 87 companies to increase its emissions reduction commitment to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5° C above pre-industrial levels. Nokia previously pledged to help limit global warming to 2‍°‍C.

Nokia CEO and president Rajeev Suri called 5G a “natively green” technology that is naturally more efficient than earlier generations of mobile connectivity.

“For example, its ‘lean carrier’ feature improves spectral efficiency, meaning energy consumption per bit is reduced by up to 60‍% compared to 4G,” wrote Suri in a Monday blog post.

Suri cited the vendor’s ReefShark chipset, which he noted can reduce power consumption of base stations by up to 64%, as well as Nokia’s liquid cooling system, which Suri said can reduce a base station’s CO2 emissions by up to 80%.

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Nokia is making all of its products smaller, and easier to recycle, upgrade and repair, according to Suri’s blog.

He also pointed to digitization as a means to increase environmental efficiencies. Within its own company, Nokia said it reduced air travel emissions by 16% in 2018 and increased virtual meeting hours by 14%.

“I am proud to say that we are speeding up our commitments to be in line with the new scientific consensus to limit global warming to 1.5°C. This means operational improvements, but even more importantly, increased focus to enable digitalization and connectivity to unlock major environmental efficiencies across industries and society,” Nokia’s CEP said in a statement.

The recent climate commitments come about a week after 50 mobile operators, including the four largest U.S. carriers, agreed to climate impact disclosures as part of a global initiative spearheaded by the GSMA.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon all agreed to release their climate impacts, energy and greenhouse gas emissions through CDP global disclosure system, a move GSMA said represents the first phase of developing an action roadmap and pathway to decarbonization for the mobile industry.