“Our ambition is to develop technologies that are sustainable” (Huawei)

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"Our ambition is to develop technologies that are sustainable" (Huawei) © Huawei

As the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) approaches, digital players are positioning themselves as key solutions for a more effective ecological transition. Adnane Ben Halima, Vice President in charge of Public Relations at Huawei Northern Africa, stresses the crucial importance of technology in the development of Africa's economy and industries, in the service of smart and sustainable cities. With initiatives such as the Green Tower in Egypt and various innovative urban projects, Huawei is demonstrating the significant impact of digital technology in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonising infrastructures, particularly in optimising energy management.

Jean Marie Takouleu: Decision-makers from around the world are meeting in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from 30 November to 12 December 2023 for COP28. There will be a lot of talk about the energy transition. Digital infrastructures are reputed to consume a lot of energy. How can they be decarbonised while maintaining their efficiency? 

Adnane Ben Halima: When it comes to decarbonising digital infrastructures, I think it’s important to focus our efforts on two major areas. Firstly, the integration of renewable energies into the power supply for these infrastructures is crucial. As for the second point, it is essential to improve the energy efficiency of our infrastructures. For example, in collaboration with Telecom Egypt, Huawei took part in the construction of Africa’s first ecological tower in Egypt: the Green Tower. The Green Tower uses innovative fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP) technology to reduce the energy consumption of the sites by almost 40%, a perfect illustration of how it is possible to combine technological efficiency and respect for the environment.

The digital sector currently accounts for 3 to 4% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. As a major player in the sector, what is Huawei doing to reduce the environmental footprint of its facilities, particularly data centres?

At Huawei, we attach great importance to our environmental responsibility, in particular by taking action on the energy efficiency of all our solutions and facilities. On the specific question of data centres, we favour the adoption of natural cooling systems, as air conditioners consume the most energy. All our recent data centres, in Africa and internationally, are equipped with these technologies.

We have also made significant progress in optimising the energy consumption of our facilities. A good example is the bit/watt ratio in our 5G sites, where we have extended coverage while reducing their energy consumption by up to 50%. This efficiency is the result of the integration of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies, which optimise the operation of our equipment. These systems dynamically adapt to variations in activity, improving energy efficiency and reducing environmental impact, while ensuring optimum network performance.

When it comes to decarbonising infrastructure, we firmly believe that technology is not at odds with environmental objectives. On the contrary, digital technology is an essential lever for achieving a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, aiming for a 20% reduction by 2030 according to the Global Enabling Sustainability Initiative (GeSi). At Huawei, our ambition is twofold: to develop technologies that benefit society while ensuring that these technologies are sustainable.

Are there any cross-cutting innovations from Huawei that could help decarbonise infrastructure in other sectors in Africa?

Of course, digital technology is essential to support the transformation of all industrial sectors by meeting their sustainability imperatives. At Huawei, all the innovations we develop are designed to be used by other sectors too, and to help decarbonise their infrastructures.

However, the benefits of these innovations are not limited to agriculture; they extend to many other sectors, including the energy sector itself. Digital technology, especially artificial intelligence, is playing a crucial role in optimising energy distribution networks. Our smart grid solutions are designed to reduce energy losses, which can account for around 20% of total losses when distributing energy across networks.

These technological advances, coupled with Huawei’s renewable energy solutions, have enabled the company to produce nearly 300 billion kWh of green energy over the past decade, reducing CO2 emissions by 170 million tonnes – the equivalent of planting 220 million trees.

Several African countries, notably Morocco and Egypt, want to develop greener, smarter cities to better respond to and adapt to climate change. Should new cities be built using new technologies? Or simply digitalise those that already exist? 

Building new cities is not the best solution. The environmental impact associated with such construction is considerable. Especially since, according to UN-Habitat, today’s cities are responsible for more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions while occupying less than 2% of the earth’s surface. It is therefore necessary to focus on modernising existing urban infrastructures. However, the increase in the world’s population makes the construction of new cities inevitable, and I am convinced that digital technology will play a central role in their development. It will be essential to optimise not only their construction but also their day-to-day management, making homes more efficient and sustainable.

Huawei has developed a Smart City solution that combines cloud computing, the Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and artificial intelligence (AI). This solution was presented on World City Day. How can it contribute to the development of green, intelligent cities?

Huawei’s Smart City solution contributes to the development of green, intelligent cities through the efficient management of urban resources. AI and Big Data enable us to analyse and optimise the use of resources such as energy and water, reducing the ecological footprint of cities. IoT connects infrastructures, facilitating proactive and reactive management, such as adjusting street lighting according to human presence. Cloud computing centralises data, enabling fast, efficient management and decision-making. Together, these technologies improve urban sustainability and quality of life.

Interview by Jean Marie Takouleu

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