Working Towards a World Where Sustainability and Innovation Walk Hand-in-Hand
This World Environment Day, coming in the backdrop of the recent climate change report released by the UN in 2018, is a significant one. The report foresees a global crisis by 2040 if we don’t take major action at a policy and corporate level.
Responsible companies have already began spurring into action on their own without waiting for regulations. Apple, for instance, has made its operations run off renewable energy and is opening its advanced recycling technology intelligence for others to adapt. On similar lines, electric vehicle making lodestar Tesla, famously made all its patents publicly available as far back as 2014. Huge corporations ranging from Intel to Walmart are all stepping up the game, showing that profitability doesn’t need to be compromised in pursuit of sustainability.
Something in the Air
This year’s theme is air pollution, and it’s a timely reminder that every year, it causes 7 million deaths globally. In India, this should strike home hard since many of our major cities frequent the “most polluted cities” lists (22 of the top 30) and 1.2 million of our countrymen succumb to air pollution-related deaths.
As a responsible energy company, we know we cannot compromise on environmental goals while achieving the ones at global level. Which is why conservation and caring for the environment is our second nature. It’s often a starting point of the discussion more than an afterthought. There have been quite a few techniques, that have proved useful to us in causing minimum impact on the environment during the execution phases across our various projects. We hope that these techniques inspire others too, to look at sustainable growth and development.
Reducing Carbon Footprint for Projects
In 2019, it would be irresponsible to not consider the environmental impact of any action - be it while grocery shopping or setting up a major energy project. Many consumer companies are joining in the effort to make their products and practices more sustainable - perhaps best highlighted by coworking company WeWork’s decision to make all their offices vegetarian, citing environmental concerns. In the infrastructure and energy world, this is as important, and several companies are taking steps towards sustainability without needing to compromise on profitability. For instance, one thing we at Sterlite Power have started placing emphasis on is tree translocation: where bigger and mature living trees are translocated within 500 mts. This helps maintain air filtration, produce enough oxygen, reduce soil erosion and conserve energy. We also actively take part in tree donation and sapling plantation.
Moreover, with the Convergence business, Sterlite Power gives the telecom sector an opportunity to leverage transmission assets. Using the existing power transmission towers to carry the telecom antenna eradicates the need of new towers – a step for economic sustainability.
Another challenge in telecom sector is the usage of diesel generators (DGs) near the towers to power the telecom equipment. To eliminate the usage of DGs completely, we have come up with the solution of using power voltage transformers (PVTs). PVTs tap supply power directly from the extra high voltage (EHV) system to energize telecom equipment. Apart from enabling high quality, clean, green, electrical power supply availability, this simple solution is helping us in reducing diesel consumption and reduce CO2 emission.
Environmental Mapping to Preserve Flora & Fauna
Apart from the steps taken to preserve vegetation in India, we also work towards global sustainability. During the planning and execution stages of Sterlite Power’s Arcoverde project, we initiated a “forest replenishment program” under which large areas in the Atlantic forest and Caatinga biomes were planted with around 7,000 seedlings and nearby 9 hectares of land were recovered. The environmental mapping of the Arcoverde project contributed to the Serra do Giz Integral Protection Conservation Unit, an initiative of the Municipality of Afogados da Ingazeira with the Government of the State of Pernambuco, that seeks to protect an area of 310.2 hectares with great fauna and flora. In addition, we continue monitoring the fauna in the Arcoverde project, post project completion. This contributes to increase the knowledge of the fauna existing in the region and the preservation of several species of animals.
Innovations to Help Utilize Minimum Space
One of the by-products of infrastructure or energy projects tends to be the sheer footprint - which can prove expensive in urban areas or damaging to ecology in eco-sensitive ones. As space becomes more of a constraint around the world, newer technologies will need to find ways of building infrastructure while taking up less space.
We, at Sterlite Power, have been fortunate to work with some progressive utilities to build sustainable solutions. For eg, when Kerala State Electricity Board needed to urgently upgrade its network to keep up with exponential demand increase, we worked with them and deployed monopoles in the highly eco-sensitive state of Kerala. These structures took only one-fourth of the footprint, as compared to regular towers and ensured less sag in the lines. One the other hand, in one of our projects in Gurgaon – a densely populated urban centre, we have built vertical substations to overcome space constraints. Our designers have often worked with local communities to come out with mutually beneficial solutions. From holding discussions with community heads to going to the extent of making amendments in our planned route, we make every possible move to ensure energy transmission, but not at the cost of environment.
Relooking at Existing Processes to Reduce Environmental Impact
A solution for 1950 cannot be a solution for 2019. Processes that have worked in the past have to take the current environmental scenario into account. We all might have heard of Apple’s attempts at making its new ‘spaceship’ headquarters in California the - ‘greenest building in the world’, or our own ITC Hotels building all its hotels to get LEED certification. From our end, we have deployed several tweaks: the use of aluminium instead of the standard lead in insulated cables, and the use of aerial technology to lay transmission lines to ensure minimal environmental impact in the pristine J&K area, for instance. In another example, we worked very closely with the tree-worshipping Sarna community in Jharkhand and modified existing routes and did the necessary rituals to respect their tradition. Sometimes, it’s discussions and negotiations with on-ground communities that go a longer way to building a sustainable future than meetings in boardrooms!
Keeping the Planet Safe for Our Non-Human Friends
With a latest UN report saying that millions of animals are at risk of extinction, it becomes imperative for us to keep our fellow beings into account whenever we carry out a project. Sports apparel company Adidas, for example, collects and turns ocean plastic waste into high-quality wear, something that has tremendous benefits for aquatic life. Swedish furniture giant IKEA takes things to another end by upcycling products to provide artificial habitats for our jungle friends.
Back in India, we have a couple of examples to share. In the biodiverse North-East, we worked with one of India’s leading behaviour expert of elephants, to build rigid standard operating procedures while dealing with the animal. Erstwhile, human-elephant conflict was a problem in the region, and we are proud to say Sterlite Power helped the region tackle it.
Our bit towards a sustainable tomorrow doesn’t end with project execution process. We also extend the approach to pre-bidding planning stages.
Recently, we were planning to bid for a transmission line project in Rajasthan. However, during our pre-bidding surveys we found that the area is inhabited by the Great Indian Bustard – a critically endangered species on the verge of extinction. The challenge was to prevent birds (the endangered species included), squirrels and other aerial or arboreal species from getting harmed by the project. In an initiative to prepare ourselves to tackle this grave issue, we are getting in touch with local ornithologists, so that we can together work towards a way where Sterlite Power’s transmission line towers and wires extend no harm to the rare species of birds.
We are working towards building a device which emits certain wavelength that can only be heard by birds (and other animals except for humans). This will prevent the birds from coming near the towers, and hence, the danger of them getting electrocuted can be easily averted.
As World Environment Day draws closer, more people need to be made aware of air pollution and the dangers to our planet. Not just the public, but policy makers and businesspeople as well - this is the only home we’ve got, and we need to make sure whatever we do, preserves it for our future generations.
Monalisa Sahoo - CMO, Sterlite Power