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<Fiscal 2012> Environmental Initiatives and Expectations of KDDI

Past Stakeholder Dialogues

Environmental Initiatives and Expectations of KDDI

We invited two environmental experts to discuss the environment in a lively dialogue with KDDI representatives.

The invited experts

Photo: Mr. Hitoshi Suzuki Institute for InternationalSocio-Economic Studies President, Member of the Original Japan Committee for ISO 26000

Mr. Hitoshi Suzuki
Institute for International
Socio-Economic Studies
President, Member of the Original Japan
Committee for ISO 26000

Photo: Mr. Hiroshi Onoda Director, Waseda University Environmental Research Institute Associate Professor, Waseda Environmental Institute

Mr. Hiroshi Onoda
Director, Waseda University
Environmental Research Institute
Associate Professor, Waseda
Environmental Institute

Promoting "Green of ICT" (Conserving Energy at Mobile Phone Base Stations)

Developing Energy-Efficient Technologies in Partnership with Equipment Manufacturers

As KDDI's power consumption increases as its business expands, increasing the energy efficiency of base stations, which account for 60% of total power consumption, has been positioned as a material issue. Participants in this dialogue discussed "Green of ICT" (making ICT more environmentally friendly) .

Photo: Mr. Hiroshi Onoda

Onoda: Although it cannot be helped that power consumption increases when a company expands, it is important to minimize that increase. Also, as well as reducing power consumption (kWh) , the importance of reducing maximum power usage (kW) at peak times is growing, and both these energy problems are issues for the communications industry.

KDDI: We maintain a continual focus on how reasonable the increase rate in our power consumption is and, in accordance with our Green Procurement Guidelines, we install equipment that is as energy-efficient as possible into our base stations. However, there is also a need to balance efficiency against cost and we give detailed consideration to points including energy efficiency, the cost of installment, product life, and the effect of installment on the power consumption of related equipment, establishing appropriate grounds for assessment.
We also participate in the ICT Ecology Guideline Council, with the aim of reducing power consumption and CO2 emissions from equipment, and are promoting the development of technologies by creating energy-efficiency standards for a range of equipment in cooperation with telecommunications equipment manufacturers.

Suzuki: For equipment manufacturers, repeated demands from telecommunications operators for more energy-efficient, high-quality, low-cost products provide motivation for ingenuity and technological development. At the same time, using only current concepts, significant decreases in energy consumption are difficult and a bold conceptual breakthrough is needed. Sharing the same base stations by multiple mobile operators may be a good overseas example.

KDDI: We are considering it technologically, but there are major hurdles.

Photo: Mr. Hitoshi Suzuki

Suzuki: In the EU's energy vision for 2020, it has set a "decoupling" policy whereby while economic growth will continue, energy consumption and CO2 emissions will be reduced, as it aims to create a sustainable society. Germany has already achieved results in this respect and the key to success is the use of ICT. On the other hand, ICT uses a large amount of electric power. As a result of the spread of mobile phone networks and cloud services worldwide, there has been a rapid increase in power consumption at mobile phone base stations and data centers and increasing efficiency in these facilities is becoming a major social issue. Taking Japan for an example, although overall power consumption in Japan fell 4.6% from 2011 to 2012, consumption related to data centers rose by 7%. Because of this situation, recently environmental NGOs in Europe and the United States have launched campaigns to promote use of renewable energy at companies' data centers to reduce their environmental impact. As a result, some U.S. Internet providers have changed the energy sources for their data centers so that they are entirely powered by renewable energy. It will be necessary to monitor the activities of environmental NGOs as they implement these kinds of global campaigns, and it will help companies understand global trends and social expectations.
Also, for Japanese equipment manufacturers to become more robust in global competition, it is necessary for their major stakeholders-telecommunications operators-to strongly encourage technological innovation in environmental arena.

CO2 Emissions Reductions Through Tribrid Base Stations

KDDI: Since 2009, KDDI has been constructing base stations with tribrid power control technology using solar power, batteries, and nighttime power, and we completed our 100th base station during FY2012. Power consumption for wireless equipment at base stations is 1kW and at base stations with two solar panels, two to three hours of fine daytime weather generates 400W of power, supplying 40% of necessary power. With four solar panels, there is twice the generated power, providing around 80% of necessary power. Also, by charging batteries at night and using that power at peak times during the day, we can cut peak-time power usage and bring about a "peak shift" whereby usage is shifted to off-peak times. We believe that actively calling attention to these initiatives is also an important task for us.

Onoda: That is important in the sense of informing society of the value of laying down ICT infrastructure. The public knows that KDDI provides jobs to communities through its business as well as an array of communications services and that it is prepared for disasters, such as the Great East Japan Earthquake. At the same time it is well-known that while the Company has CO2 emissions in keeping with its size, it is working to reduce these as much as possible. It is also becoming clearer what conditions are necessary to spread its advanced tribrid technology to all of the tens of thousands of base stations throughout Japan. These conditions may be reduced costs of solar panels and batteries or improved systems. Furthermore, a key point in gaining widespread trust would be to clarify how much ICT can contribute to reduced power usage by society.

Suzuki: There are limits to what KDDI can do on its own to conserve energy. Naturally, the efforts of telecommunications and air conditioning equipment manufacturers are involved, as are those of renewable energy companies. In line with this, the overall design of base stations and data centers is important. Further efforts to promote conservation of energy will involve clarifying which companies are involved and making energy consumption visible across the entire value chain, from upstream providers of resources and materials through downstream sales shops.

KDDI: Most of our base stations in urban locations are in buildings or on land, owned by individuals or corporations, which we rent for setting up our equipment. When we set up tribrid base stations on building rooftops, they take up more space and are heavier than our ordinary stations, due to solar panels, batteries, and other equipment. In fact, there have been cases when owners have refused to allow construction of tribrid stations based on physical limitations and the amount of space they take up. More efficient and compact solar panels and smaller batteries would mean taking up less space, reducing the impact on the view and the weight on the building. As you say, cooperation and harmonization between a range of players is becoming more important.

KDDI: When building base stations, we consider the scenery and biodiversity at the same time as reducing power consumption. Against a backdrop of demands and guidance from national and local governments, in recent years we have become particularly aware of scenery considerations, holding numerous consultations before construction with concerned bodies regarding paint color and height. As a past example of how we have considered ecosystems, when construction coincided with nesting and laying periods for goshawks and storks we consulted with local government and environmental protection groups and changed our construction schedule. In other cases we have brought in plants and planted trees under the guidance of the Ministry of the Environment in areas where few plants were growing. We have also sometimes chosen to use non-percussive piling methods so as not to affect such activities as births, breeding, and milking of racehorses, dairy cows, and other animals with the sound of construction. People are aware of the importance of mobile phones as social infrastructure and understand their necessity as a means of communications when mountain accidents take place and I think there are less cases than before of opposition to base stations because of environmental damage. However, although people understand the necessity of KDDI's activities, to minimize environmental impact we see our chief responsibility as maintaining trust relationships with local government and residents.

Promoting "Green by ICT" (Reducing the Environmental Impact of Society)

From Providing Regional Services to Spreading Energy Conservation Behavior to Society

KDDI aims to achieve "Green by ICT," which is to say using IT to reduce the environmental impact of society as a whole. We heard about KDDI's initiatives for commercializing social contributions, such as services for visualizing power consumption (Eco-Bito, Setsuden Hiroba) .

Photo: KDDI

KDDI: In the summer of FY2012, we began trials of our Eco-Bito service by installing high-precision power sensors in homes to enable visualization of computer and smartphone power usage and to give advice about energy-conservation behavior matching family makeup and lifestyles. We are also promoting cuts in peak-time electricity use within this trial. Setsuden Hiroba is a service we began trials for in FY2011, following the Great East Japan Earthquake, which raises awareness of energy conservation through visualization of power consumption, and awards au points based on the degree of contributions. Through this service, we are promoting a peak shift.

KDDI: Since the Great East Japan Earthquake, there has been a need to restrict power consumption and industry is making independent efforts to bring about reductions. KDDI launched the above support services to help with necessary reductions in household power consumption. However, listening to customers, they do not feel the same merits in a peak shift and reduction of power consumption. Power companies have repeatedly increased efficiency and passed power savings on to customers, but there is a very big difference in values between businesses and consumers.

Onoda: These ideas put too much emphasis on the energy side of the equation. The same thing happens in debates about smart communities. Instead, the Company should focus more on providing services that benefit consumers and save energy as a result. For example, at power-usage peak times, it should hold sales in local shops and encourage residents out of their homes. The more people who are away from home, the more household power consumption is reduced, bringing about an overall cut in community peak-time power consumption and a peak shift. It does not matter if the people who go out are not motivated by saving energy. What matters is efficiently controlling community flow to achieve power saving in society as a whole. As ICT infrastructure corporations like KDDI possess vast quantities of data, if they used this data to maximum effect, they could create new services that would help to reduce the environmental impact of society.

KDDI: As the social mission of an ICT corporation, our starting point was increasing power-saving awareness through visualization of power consumption with the aim of reducing consumption at peak times in the morning and evenings and shifting this usage to other times, but our customers do not sense the value in this. We could promote the spread of this system with the support of the government, but as you have suggested, apart from energy methods, an approach in which we focus on closely-knit communities providing distinctly local content that can lead to energy saving is also important. For example, a system where for a small fee it is possible to search many different kinds of local information and services and where it would also be possible to see information about how a household with a similar family structure use ICT to save energy. Seeing that, they would think, "Let's try it ourselves." Then there would be a need to think about how to widen this kind of system from communities to society as a whole.

Using Big Data to Provide New Value

Suzuki: As well as conducting ICT infrastructure business that generates a high social value, through that business KDDI accumulates vast quantities of data, or "big data," related to consumer behavior. There is the potential for creating new business models for solving social issues by using this data.

Let me introduce a social business case study. When I was the general manager of a CSR department, we launched a project for industrializing strawberry cultivation using hydroponics in a BOP business [1] supporting poor Indian farmers and aiming to increase income. My vision for the future is of smarter rural communities using ICT. As energy, production, and customer management are vital for industrializing agriculture, a mobile phone network would be useful. The target would be to give women in agricultural villages the opportunity to work, and as there is a strong tendency for women to invest income in their children's education and employment training there is a resulting increase in demand for services such as distance learning. It would take time, but thinking 5–10 years ahead, I sense a great potential in social businesses for changing agricultural communities in India using ICT.

Also, in African agricultural villages mobile phones are becoming common. However, weather information is not provided for these villages. When growing agricultural products it is vital to have weather reports to know if tomorrow will be fine or rainy or if a sandstorm is coming, and given that information productivity increases. There is the idea that it would be possible to attach meteorological sensors to base station antennas, analyze the data collected to make weather forecasts, and send that to farmers via the mobile phone network. In the same way, if KDDI had sensor functions on all its many base stations throughout Japan, it could collect a wide variety of big data. For example, by collecting environmental data as well as meteorological data, environmental monitoring would be possible. I think that gathering, analyzing, and applying various kinds of data would lead to the creation of new social business services. It is as if base station antennas are antennas for seeking out new business possibilities.

  • [1]
    Sustainable businesses targeting the poorest socio-economic group, the Base of the Economic Pyramid (BOP) principally in developing countries, which aim at the resolution of many social issues in communities such as provision of water, daily necessities, and services, and the reduction of poverty.

KDDI: I think there is potential for KDDI to provide new value through maximizing its use of ICT infrastructure and big data. Also, the suggestion to think about providing services to communities which ultimately result in energy saving, rather than focusing on energy itself, is a fresh one. It has given us a great deal to think about.

Focusing Efforts on Increasing the Recycling Collection Rate

KDDI: Many rare metals are used in mobile phones and recovering and reusing those metals is an important environmental problem. Until two years ago, the collection rate was 30%, but since then the rate is dropping in proportion to the spread of the smartphone. The main causes are difficulty in moving data, such as photos and ringtones, due to copyright and other restrictions when switching from feature phones to smartphones, attachment to phones, concerns about personal data leaking, and a misconception that phones are disposed of as waste. We feel the necessity of providing the public with correct information.

Onoda: Telecommunications operators play a big role in the recycling chain by taking responsibility for providing raw materials. While educating consumers and providing incentives, I would like them to focus efforts on continually increasing the collection rate. Although they carefully dismantle returned phones by hand, I would also like them to encourage equipment manufacturers to improve ease of dismantling to make recycling easier and to promote standardization.

KDDI: We have felt again the necessity of not solving social issues on our own and that cooperation with stakeholders and business partners in particular is necessary. For partnership and cooperation, this kind of dialogue with society is important and I would like to share many points within the Company. Thank you very much for speaking to us today.