5G connectivity key to building greener economy

Advances in mobile technology are set to play a key role in helping the UK achieve Net Zero by 2050 and a new report just out has found that ultrafast 5G connectivity could be critical to success in cutting carbon emissions. Powered by 5G, the application of smart connected solutions in key sectors could save the UK up to 269 megatonnes of CO2 by 2035, almost as much CO2 as all of England’s emissions in 2018 combined (280 megatonnes).

The new report, entitled A greener connected future, has been published by leading mobile network operator O2 and produced in partnership with IC&CO and Cenex. O2’s research findings estimate that smart tech will enable up to 181 megatonnes of CO2 to be removed from the sector by 2035. The mobile network is in the process of rolling out 5G across the UK, with 60 sites already live and plans to reach 70 before the end of the year.

Transforming high-emission industries

Ultrafast 5G connectivity and the solutions it enables will cut carbon emissions across a number of sectors, with utilities and home energy seeing the greatest benefit.

  • Housing: Heating Britain’s houses and powering the myriad devices that keep the country moving has a significant energy cost, but 5G will help reduce this by enabling reliable and ultra-fast communication between machines, powering next-generation smart meters to enable households to track and reduce their consumption.
  • Energy: For energy providers, 5G also promises exciting applications that will enable sweeping efficiencies, including smarter transfer of energy from electric vehicles straight to the national grid (V2G).
  • Travel: As flexible and home-based working looks set to become more commonplace beyond the COVID-19 lockdown, up to 43 megatonnes of carbon could be removed from the economy as people become less reliant on transport, and 5G-powered autonomous vehicles and smart tech make the UK’s transport system greener. Much of this reduction in CO2 from transport (85%-89%) is set to be achieved through improvements in the ‘remote office’ experience, with 5G powering virtual reality meetings and providing high-speed data processing capabilities, relegating the commute and other unnecessary business travel to a thing of the past.
  • Manufacturing: As the UK enters a fourth industrial revolution, 5G networks look set to power the factories of the future. Increased automation will drive efficiencies as well as overall improvements in productivity. 5G will facilitate greater flexibility, lower costs and shorter lead times for factory floor production that together could take up to 40 megatonnes of carbon out of the economy by 2035.

Telecoms must lead from the front

Any connectivity-powered path to net-zero must start with tackling the carbon impact of the telecoms industry, which is why O2 is aiming to reach net zero and reducing supply chain emissions by 30% by 2025, in line with science-based targets. Last year, O2 was one of only three companies globally to be recertified at the highest level by the Carbon Trust Standard for reducing supply chain emissions.

Assessing UK prospects for a greener future as a whole, Mark Evans, O2 CEO, said:

“Ultrafast connectivity can play a significant part in rebuilding Britain whilst helping to green the economy. If we invest now, there is a real opportunity for Britain to become a leading adopter of 5G and unleash the power of connected solutions to build a greener future for generations to come.”

Placing the findings of the Greener connected future report in a post-pandemic context, Steve Martineau, UNFCCC COP26 High Level Climate Action Champions Lead, concluded:

“There is no doubt that connectivity has helped us navigate the COVID-19 crisis, enabling us to work and socialise remotely, deliver remote healthcare and order food and supplies like never before. This report makes clear that connectivity has a major role to play in reducing carbon emissions and rebuilding Britain.”

O2 is a mobile network operator and the principal commercial brand of Telefónica UK Limited, part of global telecoms group Telefónica S.A, headquartered in Spain and operating in Europe, and North, Central and South America.

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