Advances in mobile technology are set to play a key role in helping the UK achieve Net Zero by 2050. Powered by 5G, the application of smart connected solutions in key sectors could save the UK up to 269 megatonnes of CO2 by 2035. If achieved, this would save almost as much CO2 as all of England’s emissions in 2018 (280 megatonnes).
O2’s new report – called "A greener connected future", conducted in partnership with IC&CO and Cenex – found that ultrafast 5G connectivity, and the solutions it enables, is expected to cut carbon emissions across a number of sectors, with manufacturing potentially seeing up to 40 megatonnes of carbon savings being delivered 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 the manufacturing sector
Manufacturing in the UK is entering a fourth industrial revolution, with 5G networks set to power the factories of the future. Increased automation will drive efficiencies as well as overall improvements in productivity. 5G could facilitate greater flexibility, lower costs and shorter lead times for factory floor production that together could lead to significant carbon reductions.
One example of 5G in action can be found at the Worcester Bosch factory, situated on an unassuming industrial estate just outside Worcester town. The factory has its own dedicated 5G network, which allows the factory to be reconfigured to create and produce many different components at different times. Not only does this provide greater flexibility and reliability for Bosch, but these efficiencies also directly impact the bottom-line, with energy consumption and bills falling by as much as 20%.
- Energy - Heating our houses and powering the myriad devices that keep Britain’s moving has a significant energy cost, but 5G could help reduce this by enabling reliable and ultra-fast communication between machines, powering next-generation devices like smart meters to enable households to track and reduce their consumption. For energy providers, 5G has exciting applications that will enable sweeping efficiencies, including smarter transfer of energy from electric vehicles straight to the national grid. Combined, the utilities and home energy could see up to 181 megatonnes of CO2 removed from the sector by 2035.
- 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.
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 reduce supply chain emissions by 30% by 2025, in line with science-based targets. O2’s latest Blueprint reaffirms its commitment to building a Greener Network, delivering carbon savings through the enabling role of mobile technology.
Mark Evans, O2 CEO, said: “Ultrafast connectivity can play a significant part in rebuilding Britain whilst helping to green the economy, and at O2 we are committed to playing our part.
“Our ‘Greener connected future’ report sets out a vision for how connected solutions enabled by 4G and 5G could power a green revolution over the next decade and beyond. 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.”
Steve Martineau, UNFCCC COP26 High Level Climate Action Champions Lead, said: “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 unplanned disruption has shown us that there are many things we can do, which were unthinkable just a few months ago. This report makes clear that connectivity has a major role to play in reducing carbon emissions and rebuilding Britain.”