Digitalization and Decarbonization Drive Huawei’s Green Development

Digitalization and decarbonization must go hand in hand to power sustainable development, according to Huawei. The Chinese operator’s green development 2030 report aims to quantify the decarbonization process from three angles: improving the energy efficiency of digital infrastructure, expanding renewable energy sources, and enabling green development and digitalization across industries.

“Everything we imagine today is very likely to be too conservative – too little – for tomorrow. We have to meet the future with bold hypotheses and a bold vision, and throw caution to the wind as we push to break through bottlenecks in theory and technology,” Zhou Hong, president of Huawei’s research institute, said in a keynote address. “This is the only way forward.”

The logic behind Huawei’s green development plans is that digitalization leads to increased development, and decarbonization allows that development to be done sustainably. “Creating synergies between digitalization and decarbonization will be very important,” the report explains.

Improve Energy Efficiency

The vendor separates its approach to green development into three pathways. The first is improving energy efficiency of digital infrastructure.

Improving energy efficiency starts with building green sites that consider sustainable perspectives on theory, materials, components, and architecture. New developments in system architecture and software will help build simplified networks that require less energy consumption, according to the company.

Ken Hu, Huawei’s rotating chairman, cited the use of simplified architecture design in its Indonesian mobile sites and data centers. “We’ve replaced indoor sites with integrated outdoor cabinets, so no equipment rooms or air conditioners are needed. This has cut the energy consumption of support infrastructure by about 30%.”

The report also identifies the importance of measuring carbon emissions in improving digital infrastructure’s energy efficiency, along with building “low-carbon autonomous driving networks to achieve intelligent operations.”

Expanding Renewable Energy Supply, Grid Decarbonization

Huawei’s second pathway to green development targets increasing the amount of renewable energy available on electricity grids worldwide. This will allow fossil fuel-based energy to be phased out and reduce the associated carbon emissions. Google’s carbon-free energy policy roadmap expresses a similar grid decarbonization focus.

Huawei’s strategy begins with improving the power generation efficiency of photovoltaic (PV), or solar power, by integrating digital and power electronics technologies. This will pave the way to combine solar energy production and storage to push PV as a primary energy source.

The pathway also focuses on transportation — specifically, revamping electric vehicles using digital technology to make them outperform traditional combustion-based vehicles. The Chinese giant also notes the importance of integrating smart energy tech to enable low-carbon buildings and campuses.

Successfully electrifying vehicles in Huawei’s operations and its campuses, for example, would help lower the company’s operational emissions. But this would also equip other industries to decarbonize, the vendor claims.

Multi-Industry Decarbonization

“We are currently focusing on three areas: strengthening our approach to innovation, equipping all industries with the tools and knowledge they need to go digital, and helping build a low-carbon world,” Hu said during his keynote at Huawei’s Global Analyst Summit 2022.

This ties into the company’s third pathway to green development: extending its expertise and knowledge to help other industries like electricity, transportation, construction, and manufacturing reach net-zero.

“On the energy consumption side, we’re doing everything we can to help industries reduce their own carbon footprints with digital technology,” Hu said. “For example, in our industry, we’re working to reduce the environmental impact of networks. Our main focus is on mobile sites and data centers, which are the most power-hungry network components.”

Analysts echo the importance of this collaborative approach to sustainability. “We have to actually do this together, meaning that we need to integrate so many of the technologies that will drive this revolutionary change toward renewable energies, toward energy harvesting technologies, all of that,” Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann told SDxCentral in an earlier interview.

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