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Telefónica increases use of renewable energy to fight climate change

Telecoms operator behind UK’s O2 mobile network doubles down on existing commitments to renewable energy sources in the fight against climate change

Telecoms operator Telefónica, which owns the O2 mobile network in the UK, is to speed up its commitment to help fulfil its goals of fighting climate change under the Paris Agreement – as it strives to source 50% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020 and 100% by 2030.

The business already runs an internal Renewable Energy Plan, and as of 2 June 2017, 44% of its electricity consumption comes from renewable energy sources, which is the equivalent of the total average consumption of over 203,000 homes, and also means the operator has effectively doubled its use of renewable energy since this time last year.

Telefónica claims to already be 100% renewable in Germany and the UK, and 79% in Spain. To further its ambitions – which it hopes will keep 1.5 million tonnes of harmful carbon dioxide (CO₂) from entering the atmosphere over the next 12 and a half years, it has now joined RE100, a worldwide collaborative initiative led by businesses committed to the 100% goal.

“By joining RE100 and progressing its renewable electricity goals, Telefónica is demonstrating that climate leadership and business leadership go hand in hand. Going 100% renewable means Telefónica is saving on energy costs while preventing CO₂ emissions – that’s a smart business decision,” said Sam Kimmins, head of RE100 at the Cliate Group.

“The company is one of the largest multinationals in Spain, with a large electricity footprint and even larger global reach. How it chooses to source its energy matters in driving market change and delivering on global climate goals.”

“Our Renewable Energy Plan helps us to improve our competitiveness, reduce our operational costs and to make growth compatible with a sustainable strategy. Our goal is to have the best network, one that not only allows us to offer excellent connectivity in technological terms, but also one that is the most efficient and clean in the sector in terms of energy and carbon,” said Enrique Blanco, Telefónica’s global chief technology officer.

The Renewable Energy Plan has four action areas which differ slightly depending on local market regulations where it operates. These are acquisition of renewable energy with a guarantee of origin; long-term purchase power agreements (PPAs); shorter bilateral agreements; and self-production – it already has 4,200 base stations that generate their own supply.

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Telefónica will be relying heavily on PPAs at its Latin American operations. In Mexico, it already has a power agreement that will see two photovoltaic solar power plants coming online this year to supply 50% of its in-country electricity consumption for 15 years, and hopes to sign similar deals in Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

Meanwhile, in Brazil, it is acquiring renewable energy through bilateral agreements and hopes to save €15m per annum, while in Uruguay it is installing 16 small solar plants in rural areas to generate 600MWh of energy each year, and at its Madrid HQ, solar panels already generate more than 3GWh per year.

It has already met with some success when it comes to solar. In Colombia, it recently invested $1.4m in photovoltaic generation to replace equipment that relied on diesel fuel, avoiding the emission of 474 tonnes of CO₂.

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