Electricity Consumption and Operational Carbon Emissions of European Telecom Network Operators
2. Materials and Methods
3.1. Electricity Consumption and Related Carbon Emissions of ETNO Operators
3.2. Electricity Consumption Per Network Type
3.3. Electricity Consumption Per Subscription
- Energy consumption related to offices, stores, etc.: 60% mobile, 30% fixed broadband, and 10% PSTN.
- Data network operations: 55% fixed broadband, 35% mobile, and 10% PSTN. Half of the overhead electricity consumption is related to onsite installations and is divided equally between the three network types, and the remaining half is related to the data traffic, which is shared between mobile and fixed broadbands.
3.4. Operational Carbon Emissions from Other Sources Than Electricity Consumption
3.5. Validation of ETNO Data Set against the Operators’ Publicly Reported Values
3.6. The Extended Trend Line—2010–2018 Development
3.7. Electricity Consumption in Relation to Data Traffic of 2010–2018
3.8. Electricity Consumption and Operational Carbon Emissions for ETNO Europe 2020
- Total subscriptions increased 9% (369 million in 2018 to 401 million subscriptions in 2020)
- Electricity consumption decreased 1% (from 14.5 TWh in 2018 to 14.3 TWh in 2020)
- Renewable electricity increased 18% (from 10.3 TWh in 2018 to 12.2 TWh in 2020)
- Share of renewable electricity increased (from 71% in 2018 to 85% in 2020)
3.9. Electricity Consumption and Related Carbon Emissions Estimated for Telecom Network Operators in Europe-30 for 2018
3.10. Electricity Consumption Data for 2020 in Europe-30, including Additional Operators
- There were 23.4-TWh electricity and 687 million subscriptions resulting in an average electricity consumption per subscription of 34 kWh/subscription. This is lower than the corresponding value for ETNO operators for Europe (36 kWh/subscription). This difference is partly due to a lower share of PSTN and core networks and lower overhead operations (operators’ data centers, offices, stores, etc.) among the additional operators.
- In total, 15 TWh of purchased renewable electricity was identified. However, data gaps exist for several operators.
- If scaled by subscriptions to the entire Europe-30, the resulting total electricity consumption is estimated to be about 35 TWh for 2020, covering about 1034 million subscriptions [15,16,17]. For EU-27, the resulting total electricity consumption is estimated to be about 29 TWh for 2020, covering about 865 million subscriptions [15,16,17].
4.1. General Comments on the Results
4.2. Data Quality
4.4. Applicability of Results for Other Regions
4.5. Applicability of Results as a Basis for Estimates of the Future
4.6. Alignment with Standards
4.7. Future Work and the Importance of Collecting Up-To-Date Data from Real Networks
- The electricity consumption and number of subscriptions for the reporting telecom network operators (ETNO Total) remained nearly constant (+1 percent and -3 percent, respectively) between 2015 and 2018, while the data traffic increased by a factor 3.
- During the period, the share of renewable electricity increased to 71%, which has led to a decrease in carbon emissions. For 2018, the operational carbon intensity of the operators equaled 6.6-kg CO2 eq per subscription (excluding embodied emissions).
- The intensities were quite constant for 2015–2018. For 2018, the electricity intensity per subscription (including overhead) was 62 kWh/subscription for fixed networks and 17 kWh/subscription for mobile networks, leading to a total average of 26 kWh/subscription.
- For the extended period of 2010–2018, the electricity consumption per subscription (ETNO Total, including overhead) remained quite stable and slightly below 30 kWh/subscription despite substantial data traffic growth (by a factor 12).
- For Europe, the intensity for the reporting telecom network operators (ETNO Europe) was 39 kWh/subscription for 2018, representing a slight increase over the period. Based on public reporting by ETNO Operators for 2020, the intensity then reduced slightly (36 kWh/subscription), which could be compared to 34 kWh/subscription for the extended data set covering ETNO Europe and additional operators.
- The overall electricity usage and operational carbon emissions of telecom operators are estimated as 38 TWh and 14 Mton CO2 eq for the EU (then including the UK) for 2018, and for 2020, the electricity consumption is estimated as 29 TWh for EU-27 (excluding the UK).
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Included Network Types:|
|Fixed telephony access networks (aka PSTN 1/POTS 1)|
|Fixed broadband access networks|
Mobile access networks (incl. all generations and services such as voice, data, and M2M 1)
Data transmission and IP-core network 1
Telecom network operators’ data centers
Cable TV networks and associated provision of broadband if operated by network operators 2
Additional services provided by network operators (such as IPTV 1,3 and VoIP 1)
|Included supporting activities:|
|Operation of offices and stores|
Business travel and field service operations
Local production of electricity (including diesel generators and solar cells both for off grid and power backup solutions)
|Enterprise networks (aka intranet) provided to customers|
Home networks / CPE 1 (e.g., modems, gateways, etc.)
|Subscriptions||ETNO Total 1|
2018  2
Share of Global Subscriptions 2018
|PSTN subscriptions||82 (95)||942||8.7% 3|
|VoIP subscriptions||25 (16)|
|Mobile subscriptions 4||664 (694)||7972||8.4%|
|Fixed broadband subscriptions||72 (64)||1065||6.7%|
|Total subscriptions||843 (869)||9979||8.2% 3|
|Subscriptions||ETNO Europe 1|
|Europe-30 3 2018|
|PSTN subscriptions||55 (68)||202||206||27% 4|
|VoIP subscriptions||25 (16)|
|Mobile subscriptions 5||255 (265)||620||637||40%|
|Fixed broadband subscriptions||59 (53)||181||187||32%|
|Total subscriptions||394 (402)||1003||1030||36%4|
|Reported Electricity Consumption:|
|Total electricity reported||21.0 TWh|
|whereof self-generated electricity (renewable and nonrenewable)||0.25 TWh|
|whereof purchased renewable grid electricity||11.3 TWh|
|A. Reported carbon emissions based on actual use of renewables (market-based method):|
|Average renewable electricity emission factor (EF)||0.01 kg CO2/kWh|
|Average non-renewable electricity EF||0.37 kg CO2/kWh|
|Reported carbon emissions due to total electricity consumption||3626 kton CO2|
|whereof due to reported renewable electricity||~100 kton CO2|
|B. Carbon emissions using country-based emission factors (location-based method):|
|Emissions without consideration of the purchase of renewables based average country EFs 1||6700 kton CO2|
|Electricity Consumption (TWh)|
|PSTN access network||4.3||4.1||3.9||3.8|
|Mobile access networks||8.8||9.0||9.2||9.5|
|Fixed broadband networks||3.5||3.5||3.7||3.7|
|Data and core networks||1.1||1.1||1.3||1.3|
|Operators’ data centers||1.5||1.6||1.5||1.5|
|Offices, shops, stores etc.||1.6||1.6||1.4||1.2|
|With Overhead Including Operators’ Data Centers|
|PSTN average 1||48||49||50||49|
|Fixed BB average||82||80||81||76|
|Without overhead (networks only)|
|PSTN average 2||45||46||46||46|
|Fixed BB average||54||53||54||51|
|With Overhead Including Operators’ Data Centers|
|PSTN average 1||46||49||51||51|
|Fixed BB average||83||82||82||78|
|Without overhead (networks only)|
|PSTN average 2||43||45||47||46|
|Fixed BB average||53||53||53||51|
|Estimated ETNO Total|
|Electricity (market-based) 1||3626||3626||4.4|
|Sites other energy||196||300||0.24|
|Fuels and energy supply||341||1050||1.3|
|Operator||Electricity (GWh)||Renewable (GWh)||Data Traffic (EB)||Comments|
|Altice||322 ||135 ||4.33 ||Reported 42% renewables|
|BT||2757 ||2381 ||~20 ||Reported 2019 values due to split financial year|
|Cosmote||490 ||480 ||0.1 ||Greece only|
|DNA||164 ||unclear||100% renewable stated but unclear numbers, thus not considered|
|DT—Germany||2769 ||1702 ||~30 |
|DT—Maygar||No public data available|
|Elisa||293 ||271 ||1.54 |
|KPN||631 ||631 ||1500% ||Excl. sold business|
|Proximus||368 ||368 |
|Swisscom||485 ||485 |
|Telecom Italia||1859 ||55 ||13.1 ||Italy only|
|Telecom Slovenia||No public data available|
|Telefonica||2934 ||2934 ||47.3 ||Reported 100% renewables for Europe. Data traffic also outside Europe|
|Telenor||512 ||no data||Total energy reported|
|Telia||1066 ||1066 |
|ETNO Europe||14.5 TWh||10.3 TWh||The corresponding data from this study included as a reference.|
|Operator||Electricity (GWh)||Renewables (GWh)||Subscriptions (million)||Data Traffic (EB)||Comments|
|Altice||301 ||286 ||7.6 ||7.2 |
|BT||2577 ||2577 ||30 ||50 ||Only mobile subscriptions|
|Cosmote||438 ||438 ||12.7 ||5.26 ||Only Greece|
|DNA||153 ||no data||8.8 ||Since 2019, part of Telenor, total energy data|
|DT—Germany||2718 ||2719 ||62 ||55.8 ||No PSTN subscriptions included|
|DT—Maygar||No public data available|
|Elisa||294 ||280 ||7.1 ||2.46 ||Only mobile data traffic|
|KPN||573 ||573 ||8.3 ||2100% |
|Proximus||352 ||352 ||5.5 ||No PSTN subscriptions included|
|Swisscom||479 ||479 ||10.3 ||Subscription figures include only Switzerland|
|Telecom Italia||1561 ||414 ||47 ||20.6 ||Italy only, subscriptions as per Sep 2021.|
|Telecom Slovenia||90 ||2.9 ||Incl. five small countries outside Europe-30|
|Telefonica||2947 ||2947 ||99 ||87.8 ||Data traffic includes traffic outside Europe|
|Telenor||639 ||no data||8.8 ||Total energy reported for Norway, Sweden, and Denmark but excl. Finland (DNA)|
|Telia||1135 ||1135 ||21.1 |
|Adjustment||401||70 M subscriptions added based on market statistics|
|Electricity consumption (TWh)||14.5||38.4||39.5|
|Purchased renewable electricity (TWh)||10.3||10.3 2||10.3 2|
|Electricity CO2 emissions (Mt)||1.8||8.7||9.0|
|Other reported CO2 (Mt) 3||0.7||1.8||1.8|
|Additional estimated CO2 (Mt) 3||0.25||0.66||0.67|
|Additional fuel and energy supply CO2e emissions (scope 3) based on LCA (Mt CO2e)||0.67||2.5||2.5|
|Total CO2 emissions (Mt)||3.36||13.5||14|
|Operator||Electricity (GWh)||Renewables (GWh)||Subscriptions (Million)||Comments|
|ETNO Europe operators||14,257||12,200||401||See Table 11|
|Cosmote Romania||121 ||unclear||3.6 ||Only mobile subscriptions|
|DT excl Germany||1895 ||1450 ||52.6 ||B2B subscriptions not included|
|Orange France 1||2186 ||0 ||no data||Low power grid electricity|
|Polkomstel||252 ||no data||unclear|
|Vodafone||3821 ||1369 ||140 ||2019/2020 data|
|Wind3||822 ||no data||20.3 ||Only mobile subscriptions|
|Adjustment||70||12 M (Polkomstel), 55 M (Orange)|
2.7 M (Wind3, fixed) additional subscriptions estimated based on market statistics
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Lundén, D.; Malmodin, J.; Bergmark, P.; Lövehagen, N. Electricity Consumption and Operational Carbon Emissions of European Telecom Network Operators. Sustainability 2022, 14, 2637. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052637
Lundén D, Malmodin J, Bergmark P, Lövehagen N. Electricity Consumption and Operational Carbon Emissions of European Telecom Network Operators. Sustainability. 2022; 14(5):2637. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052637Chicago/Turabian Style
Lundén, Dag, Jens Malmodin, Pernilla Bergmark, and Nina Lövehagen. 2022. "Electricity Consumption and Operational Carbon Emissions of European Telecom Network Operators" Sustainability 14, no. 5: 2637. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14052637