Energy efficiency: energy consumption and savings

Energy consumption as the main environmental impact factor

The greatest impact Swisscom has on the environment is caused through its energy consumption and the related CO2 emissions. Swisscom is striving to boost energy efficiency and rely more on renewable energies in order to minimise the environmental impact of its business activities. In addition to the network infrastructure described in the Management Commentary, Swisscom operates a substantial real estate portfolio itself. This comprises offices, commercial buildings, local exchanges and data centres. Swisscom does not operate any warehouses or distribution centres, but does maintain a fleet of company and commercial vehicles.

Energy management at Swisscom

In simplified terms, the Swisscom energy management programme comprises the following processes:

  • Determining energy requirements over a specific period of time
  • Determining and approving energy efficiency targets and measures
  • Determining the energy mix, particularly the electricity mix
  • Implementing measures to boost energy efficiency
  • Generating electricity
  • Using waste heat
  • Monitoring and reporting
  • Developing and marketing sustainable ICT products and services

Consumption of electricity from renewable sources and green electricity

Swisscom’s energy consumption in Switzerland amounted to 434 GWh in 2015 (prior year: 408 GWh). This represents an increase of 6.3%. The company was able to balance out a portion of the additional energy consumption attributable to further network expansion through the implementation of efficiency measures. For the electricity mix used for the network infrastructure and for consumption in businesses managed by Swisscom, compensation with certification of origin has been paid since 2010 for the share of nuclear power, electricity of unknown origin and electricity from fossil fuels. Swisscom is thus increasing the sustainability of its electricity mix. In 2015, as in previous years, it once again used 100% renewable energy, a claim which was verified by the SGS. The company purchased 18.5 GWh (prior year: 7.5 GWh) of “naturemade star” energy from solar power (14.5 GWh) and wind power (4 GWh). This makes Swisscom one of Switzerland’s largest purchasers of wind and solar power.


Efficiency measures for the electricity consumption of networks

Swisscom continued the “Mistral” energy-saving project in 2015 for the cooling of its telephone exchanges. At the end of 2015, Mistral was being used to cool 821 (prior year: 761) telecom systems in local exchanges, which represents an increase of 7.9%. Swisscom has thus successfully completed the project, saving 47.5 million kWh a year. Mistral is a cooling technology that relies solely on fresh air, all year round. It replaces conventional energy-intensive cooling systems equipped with compressors and contributes to a massive improvement in energy efficiency. Mistral also eliminates the need for harmful refrigerants. The follow-up project, Mistral Future, has already been launched. Its aim is to double the energy efficiency already achieved in the cooling of telephone exchanges by adjusting air volumes and deploying new technologies. In the year under review, Swisscom Switzerland cooled an additional 121 mobile base stations using fresh air.

The consolidation of fixed-network platforms saved a further 4.2 million kWh in 2015. Swisscom activated a new function for its GSM mobile networks that reduces transmitting power and thus electrical energy consumption at times of low network traffic. On average, this reduces the GSM network’s energy consumption by 2.4%.

Efficiency measures for electricity consumption in data centres

With a power usage effectiveness (PUE) value soon to reach 1.2, the data centre in Berne Wankdorf is particularly energy efficient. The PUE value represents the ratio of total power consumed by the data centre to the power consumed by the IT systems running there. Measured against this PUE value, the energy consumption of the Berne Wankdorf data centre is 60% lower than that of conventionally built data centres. Instead of conventional cooling units that eat up electricity, Swisscom uses a new type of freecooling process that utilises rainwater and works on the basis of evaporative cooling on hot summer days. The method won the Swiss Federal Office of Energy’s 2015 Watt d’Or award, which recognises outstanding achievements and particularly innovative projects in the area of energy and efficiency.Swisscom’s second and likewise energy-efficient data centre in Zollikofen (Berne) achieved an annual average PUE value of 1.3.

In the Olten-Neuhard Swisscom operation building, the new energy-efficient cooling systems should reduce its PUE value to 1.4. The total average PUE value of all Swisscom’s data centres is approximately 1.53. The company increasingly uses shared servers in its data centres. This server virtualisation requires less IT infrastructure and has already enabled additional savings of 7.1 million kWh in 2015.

Efficiency measures for electricity consumption in buildings

Facility Management carries out the “Pioneer @ Swisscom Energiechecks” programme throughout the entire company. This programme of energy checks contributed to optimising the operating conditions of 64 buildings in 2015, which helped Swisscom save 478 MWh of energy (prior year: 463 MWh).

Swisscom is committed to modernising existing, inefficient lighting. This not only reduces the company’s energy consumption, but also improves the quality of the lighting. Swisscom has therefore optimised the lighting in two large office buildings and, for instance, replaced all the lights in the cafeteria in the Köniz business park with LEDs. These measures alone generated annual energy savings of 15 MWh.

Efficiency measures when using fossil fuels to generate heat and reduce CO2 emissions

Swisscom measures the consumption of heating oil, natural gas and district heating on a monthly basis in its 61 biggest buildings, which together make up over half of the total floorspace. These figures are extrapolated to calculate the overall annual consumption.

During the reporting year, Swisscom consumed 170.5 terajoules (47.3 GWh) of fuel to heat its buildings (prior year: 47.8 GWh). The company’s fossil fuel-based heating mix comprises 64% heating oil, 14% natural gas and 22% district heating. Over the past six years, Swisscom has reduced the heat coefficient per m2 in its buildings by 29%. While this resulted in a reduction in CO2 emissions, the actual savings this brings are ultimately impossible to calculate due to the fact that the energy mix changes each year.

Swisscom intends to further reduce the amount of energy it uses to heat its buildings. In pursuit of this objective, it systematically continued to implement measures throughout the year under review to reduce the energy consumption and CO2 emissions involved in heating buildings. A detailed energy monitoring system has provided a more in-depth data set for the energy analysis and uncovered instances of disproportionately high energy consumption.

In addition, Swisscom has renovated and modernised several heating systems across Switzerland in 2015. Ahead of these renovations, Swisscom examined alternatives to heating using fossil fuels. In four locations, Swisscom will completely eliminate the use of heating oil from the heating period 2015/2016 onwards.

Swisscom also implemented 21 eco-relevant building projects in 2015. As evidenced by an internal environmental scorecard, this lets the company save 284 MWh of energy and reduce its CO2 emissions by 138 tonnes.

Last but not least, the energy checks helped reduce CO2 emissions by 74 tonnes (prior year: 78).

These renovations and modernisations allow Swisscom to save 854 MWh and prevent 212 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year.

Efficiency measures in fuel consumption, mobility and CO2 reduction

The ability to provide first-class customer service and expand the network infrastructure depends on the seamless mobility of staff. In 2015, the vehicles in Swisscom’s fleet covered a total of 59.5 million kilometres in the service of customers (i.e. not including private trips), which corresponds to a fuel consumption of 145.3 terajoules (39.3 GWh), 3.7% down year-on-year.

Thanks to a progressive deployment strategy, the average CO2 emissions per vehicle are to be reduced from 150 g CO2 for each kilometre travelled (2010) to 110 g CO2/km by the end of 2016. In accordance with the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), CO2 emissions from vehicles in the Swisscom fleet according to the manufacturer’s instructions averaged 113 g CO2/km as of the end of 2015, with 97% of the fleet classified in energy efficiency categories A and B. Swisscom also operates a fleet of 396 (+18.7%) hybrid vehicles, 60 (-9.1%) vehicles powered by natural gas, 15 (+33.3%) electrically driven vehicles and 33 (–11.4%) e-bikes. All electrical vehicles are recharged in Swisscom buildings and garages using electricity generated from renewable energy sources. In 2015, Swisscom employees used 127,521 (+5.2%) rail tickets for business travel and were issued 14,880 (+7.5%) half-fare cards and 3,504 (+4.8%) GA travel cards.

Efficiency gains through sustainable ICT services at Swisscom

Swisscom not only encourages its customers to use sustainable ICT, but also uses the solutions itself:

  • Virtual conferences: 18 Swisscom sites are equipped with the Telepresence virtual videoconferencing solution, including Fastweb in Italy.
  • Work Smart: Many Swisscom employees are able to work with other colleagues via videoconferencing and desktop sharing, enabling them to complete some of their work from home or on the go. Collaboration platforms also offer a simple way of accessing knowledge. The launch of the Work Smart initiative has further embedded new working methods within the company, and Swisscom shares its experience with other companies. A management guideline provides managers with useful tips on how to manage new working methods.

Generating electricity

Swisscom has been generating its own electricity since 2005 and sees this as an important contribution towards a sustainable energy policy. Swisscom builds solar installations wherever these make economic sense.

In 2015, Swisscom commissioned eight more solar installations:

  • on transmitter stations: Cardada: 29 kWp; Monte Ceneri: 90 kWp; Pizzo Matro: 110 kWp (canton of Ticino); Savièse: 47 kWp (canton of Valais).
  • on telephone exchanges and buildings: Porrentruy: 55 kWp (canton of Jura); Erstfeld: 27 kWp (canton of Uri); Bière: 20 kWp; Bursinel: 20.5 kWp (canton of Vaud).

The total output of all of Swisscom’s solar facilities is 1,281 kWp (+44% compared with the prior year’s 891 kWp), which means the company has exceeded its internal target of achieving an installed output of 1 MWp of solar energy by the end of 2015. Swisscom intends to continue its electricity generation programme in the coming years. The option of installing a solar facility is now taken into consideration for each renovation of a building, an approach with which Swisscom hopes to increase the installed output of its solar installations by 10% annually by 2020.

Overall impact of the efficiency measures

Swisscom’s energy consumption (electricity, heating fuels and vehicle fuel) in Switzerland amounted to 521 GWh in 2015 (prior year: 498 GWh). Without the efficiency measures implemented since 1 January 2010, Swisscom would currently consume an additional 149 GWh of energy per annum.

Utilising waste heat

Swisscom has signed two agreements in Zurich to supply waste heat from its operation building in Zurich-Binz. This led to 5.95 GWh of thermal energy being supplied to the neighbouring areas as district heating in 2015 (prior year: 5.7 GWh). This measure saved 595,000 litres of heating oil (prior year: 570,000 litres) and avoided the CO2 emissions that would have been generated. Waste heat from the new data centre in Berne Wankdorf is also fed into the city of Berne’s district heating system and directly heats neighbouring homes and offices. This reduces the CO2 emissions of these homes, offices and retail units. Swisscom’s operation building in Zurich-Herdern now meets the heating requirements of the entire building itself thanks to a new heat pump that utilises the waste heat from its operations rooms. This enables Swisscom to save around 900 tonnes of CO2 a year, which corresponds to 8% of the total CO2 emissions attributable to Swisscom’s heating needs. Any remaining waste heat from the building is fed into the public heating network.

Energy savings for customers thanks to improved devices

Life-cycle assessments produced by Swisscom in recent years have identified the following three aspects as the main environmental impact factors for networks and devices:

  • Energy consumed by devices through customer use
  • Energy consumed producing the devices
  • Energy consumed by network elements

The energy consumed by customer devices can be extrapolated to 269,000 MWh based on the devices, the energy consumption of each device and the typical usage profiles. As regards energy consumption, Swisscom on the one hand makes its customers aware of the many different opportunities for saving energy and on the other hand offers concrete solutions:

  • Saving energy is so easy: On the initiative of the Swiss Federal Office of Energy (SFOE), Swisscom and two other providers decided to launch a joint information campaign, which was continued in 2015. The aim of the campaign is to optimise the energy consumption of devices such as modems, routers and TV set-top boxes by encouraging customers to use the correct settings. Swisscom is supporting the campaign by informing its customers and explaining energy-optimised settings on its website.
  • Swisscom TV 2.0: Swisscom TV 2.0 no longer stores recordings on the set-top box itself, but in the cloud. As a result the box does not need a hard disk, which means that it consumes around 36 kWh or 40% less energy than its predecessor model. Swisscom has also provided Swisscom TV 2.0 customers with detailed information on the most energy-efficient settings for the set-top box for day-to-day use and when they are on holiday. In 2015, the number of Swisscom TV 2.0 customers rose to 810,000, surpassing the number of customers recorded by the predecessor offer. Despite this customer growth, the level of energy consumed by customers has declined.
  • Internet box: In 2015, Swisscom completed its Internet box range, adding Internet-Box standard and Internet-Box light to the existing Internet-Box plus offering. The new Internet boxes also offer opportunities to save energy. A time switch allows users to set times during which the Wi-Fi, the central storage function or the telephony (DECT) will be switched off. Moreover, thanks to the Internet box, fewer devices are used in the home network, which significantly reduces electricity consumption. This is because the boxes replace the multiple devices that used to be required to connect computers, TVs and HD fixed-line telephony.
  • Low Power Gateway research project: Almost every home in Switzerland has a router that connects it to the Internet and telephone network. A Swisscom project has now shown that a new generation of energy-saving routers with an output of less than two watts could provide the same service while using far less power. Swisscom therefore endeavours to further improve the energy efficiency of its own routers and is investing in research and development in this area. At present, the company is focusing on the development of energy-saving low-power routers that use only a fraction of the energy used by today’s routers. As the newly deployed technology looks promising in a laboratory setting, Swisscom is currently planning to conduct a pilot trial in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Office of Energy. After this trial, Swisscom will decide whether the innovation will be included in its product line, and if so, from when.
  • Ecomode plus: Cordless phones with Ecomode plus emit minimal levels of radiation. Almost all of the cordless phones sold by Swisscom are now models with Ecomode plus.