BT Tests Low-Energy Broadband, Charts Progress

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BT is testing an energy saving option for broadband lines as part of its ongoing green drive

BT is testing a way to dramatically cut down on the energy consumption of its broadband lines. The revelation, dubbed Cool Broadband, was revealed in its 2011 Sustainability Review, which also charted BT’s progress in reaching its energy reduction goals.

BT is currently one of the UK’s top 10 largest energy consumers. And when it published its Sustainability Review this time last year, it stated that by December 2020, it hopes to reduce its own CO2 emission intensity by 80 percent against 1997 levels.

BT Wind for Change, for example, is the UK’s biggest corporate wind power project outside the energy sector. The carrier is currently developing sites across the UK – some on its own land and others on land owned by third parties. It expects this to generate over 1 percent of BT’s total electricity demand from 2012.

Energy Reductions

Flicking through BT’s 2011 Sustainability Review makes for interesting reading, as it seems that so far the carrier is continuing to live up to its environmental responsibilities in other areas as well. Indeed, it is interesting to note that BT actually set its first UK carbon reduction target way back in 1992.

BT reported that this year, it has managed to reduce its energy use by 2.5 percent, and has targeted a further 2 percent reduction for 2012. Indeed, the carrier also found that by 2011 it had already reduced its carbon intensity of its global business by 59 percent since 1997, compared to 57 percent in 2010.

“Our first priority is to find cost effective ways to cut energy use, helping us to meet our business objectives and our environmental targets,” the report said. “We are replacing equipment with more energy efficient versions, reducing the number of servers in our data centres and introducing virtual data centres, installing smart meters for electricity and gas and rationalising use of office space.

BT said that it had saved £6.2 million per annum of energy through smart control initiatives during 2011. The majority of BT’s electricity consumption is now monitored through smart meters giving it real time data on how much energy is being consumed and enabling it to identify and resolve any energy waste.

Green Procurement

BT also outlined some of its other green achievements in the past year.

This includes BT’s green procurement standard, announced in March, to ensure all its suppliers reduce their carbon emissions. This means that 270 suppliers have to improve their environmental performance in order to do business with the carrier.

And in October last year BT, alongside Arqiva and Detica, formed the SmartReach consortium to speed up rollout of smart meters in the UK. This consortium plans to bring together consumer smart meters and the associated power company smart grids, using long-range radio technology.

And BT has also vastly increased its recycling rates. In 2011 it saw a 69 percent reduction in waste sent to landfill compared to 2010, when it only recorded a 15 percent decline in waste going to landfill.

Cool Broadband

Another green area that BT is looking to improve upon is the power consumption of its broadband lines.

Indeed, BT revealed that its ‘Innovate and Design team’ is currently testing a new approach to power management that could significantly reduce the energy consumption of broadband lines. Essentially this means that BT is configuring its 21CN ADSL2plus lines to be ‘always available’ rather than ‘always fully on’.

The difference, according to BT, is that lines automatically switch to a low power mode when user or network traffic is low and return to full speed when traffic levels pick up.

“Trials of the new technology at BT’s research and development centre at Martlesham in Suffolk and at a nearby exchange show that it reduces energy consumption in the exchange by around 30 percent per line, without affecting the service that customers experience,” said BT. However it admitted that there are still a number of further technical challenges to overcome.

Another green feather in its cap is that BT is now offering its customers more energy-efficient equipment.

For example, its smaller wireless Home Hub for broadband requires 25 percent less plastic to be used in manufacturing and also typically uses a third less power than previous models, because it adjusts power consumption based on use.

All these efforts helped BT maintain gold status in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and ‘Platinum plus’ level in the (Business in the Community) BITC CR Index.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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