O2’s living billboard installed in Shoreditch advertises firm’s eco-themed customer rewards week | Credit: O2
O2 argues Britain can become a leader in 5G ‘if we invest now’, as it publishes report outlining how technology remains a key component for the low carbon transition
5G mobile technology will play a critical role in greening the UK’s economy after the pandemic, delivering sizeable reductions in carbon emissions that will steer the UK closer to its net zero ambition, a new report from O2 today argues.
The report contends that the application of 5G networks across four industries – transport, utilities and home energy, manufacturing, and healthcare – could help the UK save as much as 269 megatonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) by 2035, the equivalent of all of England’s 2018 carbon emissions combined.
It argues the mobile technology can enable ultra-fast communication between the myriad devices working to steer Britain’s economy towards a net zero future, including smart meters that allow households to monitor and reduce their carbon consumption, autonomous vehicles, and smart grids.
“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,” O2 chief executive Mark Evans said. “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.”
The lion’s share of carbon reductions savings geneated by the introduction of 5G technology over the next 15 years will come from the powering of smart thermostats and heat pumps that eliminate the need for gas powered heating, according to the report. In total, 5G-enabled smart heating could remove up to 138 megatonnes of CO2 between now and 2035, it said.
And overall, 5G networks could save the utilities and home energy sector 181 megatonnes of CO2 through a number of measures, including the smarter transfer of energy from electric vehicles straight to the national grid.
The report estimates 5G could also be responsible for the removal of 43 megatonnes of carbon across the transport sector by 2035, as people become more comfortable working from home and 5G-powered autonomous vehicles and smart clean tech become more commonplace.
The vast majority of estimated transport reductions relate to 5G innovations and technologies allowing people to work from home more effectively, according to the report.
The study, which O2 produced with market research consultancy IC&Co and clean tech consultancy Cenex, also forecasts that 5G could prompt the removal of a further 40 megatonnes of carbon in the manufacturing sector, as increased automation drives efficiencies and delivers improvements to productivity.
Steve Martineau, COP26 high level climate action champions lead, said that the report “makes clear that connectivity has a major role to play in reducing carbon emissions and rebuilding Britain”.
He added: “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.”
The report comes as O2 unveiled a ‘living billboard’ in East London made from moss and plant seeds and emblazoned with the words ‘Go Green’.
The sign’s message will become more apparent as the plants on the billboard grow over the next two weeks, the firm said.
Tracey Herald, head of partnerships and social impact, said that the billboard was an attempt to encourage people to “return to the new normal in a more environmentally friendly way” after lockdown.
“Priority’s unique billboard, and the Go Green week of offers are designed to do just that, giving our customers a wealth of fantastic incentives to help them embrace both greener lifestyles and choices.”
Passers-by interested in growing plants at home will also be able to tear off and take home posters made from wild-flower seed paper near the billboard, according to O2.
The new report builds on O2’s plans to become a net zero emissions business by 2025, but it also comes at a time when the UK’s 5G roll out is facing a number of challenges. The government’s U-turn on its decision to allow Chinese tech giant Huawei to participate in the UK’s network is set to lead to some technical disruption, while unfounded conspiracy theories about the impact of 5G on human health have catapulted the technology into the headlines. At the same time the UK’s smart meter roll out has faced significant delays and technical challenges as poor mobile connectivity has limited the effectiveness of some installations.