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Mobile trade group pushes green initiative

The GSMA launches an initiative with a goal of getting 118,000 new and existing bay stations using renewable energy by 2012.

The GSMA, a trade group representing more than 750 GSM mobile operators across 218 countries, has launched a plan to help mobile operators in developing markets go green.

The organization announced Thursday the Green Power for Mobile initiative, which will help the industry use renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and biofuels to power 118,000 new and existing mobile base stations in developing countries by 2012. The initiative is backed by 25 mobile operators and will provide expertise and guidelines for operators deploying low-energy base stations or base stations that use renewable energy.

The vast majority of mobile base stations in rural areas that are not powered by the regular electrical grid are powered by generators that use diesel fuel. If the GSMA can achieve its goal of powering 118,000 base stations with renewable fuel, the program will save up to 2.5 billion liters of diesel fuel per year and cut carbon emissions by 6.3 million tonnnes, the group said in its press release.

A comprehensive study conducted by the GSMA found that only 1,500 base stations worldwide are powered by renewable energy today. The group blames expensive equipment and lack of expertise for such low penetration. But as fuel prices rise, mobile operators will turn to greener technologies. In fact, the GSMA's research suggests that operators who go green could recoup their costs in about 24 months.

The GSMA has already been working with a few companies on renewable base station projects. For example, it's working with Digicel to use wind and solar energy to power 17 new base stations on the Pacific island of Vanuatu. It also worked with Ericsson to help Idea Cellular use waste cooking oil to help power more than 350 base stations in parts of India. The base stations run on a blend made up of 80 percent diesel fuel and 20 percent waste cooking oil.