For all the bright, sunny positives that 5G wireless communications technology offers to consumers, businesses and first responders — increased capacity, speed, reliability and connectivity — a large looming cloud persists: Power-hungry 5G base stations can consume up to three times more power than 4G and LTE networks. This massive electricity consumption leaves a bigger carbon footprint on the environment and could be a big problem for countries that depend on fossil fuels for electricity generation.
Last week, AT&T announced its plans to target eliminating 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, working with Microsoft, universities and other alliances to unleash the power of 5G and other broadband technologies through the AT&T Connected Climate Initiative.
AT&T says it has set an industry-leading target to help businesses collectively reduce a gigaton of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — 1 billion metric tons — by 2035, an effort which will contribute to a better, more sustainable world. A gigaton is equal to approximately 15 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions and nearly 3 percent of global energy-related emissions in 2020 — or 1.6 billion flights from Los Angeles to New York.
AT&T will work with businesses including Microsoft, Equinix and Duke Energy, along with research universities, and a range of other organizations to deliver broadband-enabled climate solutions at global scale. This collaborative builds on AT&T’s standing commitment to aggressively reduce our own emissions, while enabling the transition to a net-zero economy.
T-Mobile moved early on renewable energy. In June 2020, the nonprofit Green America Wireless Scorecard, which measures clean energy usage and reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions within the wireless industry, named T-Mobile the top carrier for Clean Energy Commitment — for the third year in a row.
According to a company spokesperson, T-Mobile was the first in the industry to set two carbon reduction targets validated by the Science-Based Targets Initiative to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and prevent the worst effects of climate change:
Target 1: Reduce combined absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions 95 percent by 2025 from a 2016 base year;
2020 Progress: Combined Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions decreased by 22.2 percent since 2016;
Target 2: Reduce Scope 3 GHG emissions 15 percent per customer by 2025 from a 2016 base year;
2020 Progress: Scope 3 emissions intensity decreased by 14.5 percent per customer since 2016.
T-Mobile also set an industry first in 2018 by joining the RE100 pledge, a global initiative bringing together the world’s most influential businesses committed to 100 percent renewable electricity. “A few years and one historic merger later, we’re still on track,” the T-Mobile spokesperson said, detailing this progress: “RE100 Pledge: Source renewable energy equivalent to 100 percent of our total electricity usage by the end of 2021. 2020 Progress: As the supercharged Un-carrier, 25.3 percent of T-Mobile’s electricity usage relied on renewable energy. 2021 Progress: We’ve signed renewable energy contracts for over 3.5 million MWh. Through June 30, 2021, we have sourced 75 percent of our electricity usage from renewable sources and are tracking to reach 100 percent by the end of the year.”
Meanwhile, in 2019, Verizon set an ambitious goal to achieve net zero operational emissions by 2035 and committed to source or generate renewable energy equivalent to 50 percent of its annual electricity consumption by 2025. In January 2021, Verizon announced that it became a leading corporate buyer of U.S. renewable energy, entering into thirteen long-term renewable energy purchase agreements totaling nearly 1.7 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy capacity since December 2019. Verizon also activated more than 8 megawatts (MW) of additional on-site solar energy at eight of its facilities during 2020. Since 2013 the company has installed more than 28 MW of green power at 26 onsite locations.
Two weeks ago, Verizon issued its Green Bond Impact Report, outlining the full allocation of the nearly $1 billion of net proceeds from its second green bond. Verizon became the first U.S. telecom company to issue a green bond back in February 2019. In September 2020, the company issued its second green bond, and remains the only U.S. telecommunications company to complete the full allocation of two green bonds.
“To date, we have issued $2 billion in green bonds that support the transition to a greener grid and help us achieve our ambitious goal of net zero emissions in our operations by 2035,” said Matt Ellis, Verizon’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. “Verizon’s green bond projects demonstrate our long-term commitment to minimize our environmental impact, drive operating efficiencies and benefit the communities we serve.”
Verizon has fully allocated the net proceeds of its second green bond entirely to virtual power purchase agreements for renewable energy projects. These projects are for approximately 1 GW of new renewable energy generating capacity across seven states, of which about 83 percent is solar energy generating capacity and 17 percent is wind energy generating capacity.
The use of proceeds from the bond is part of Citizen Verizon, the company’s responsible business plan for economic, environmental and social advancement. The Green Bond Impact Report can be found on the company’s fixed income investor relations site. For more information, visit https://www.verizon.com/about/investors/green-bond-reports.
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor