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New report ranks Australia’s telcos on commitment to green energy

Greenpeace has released its latest briefing paper into how Australia’s biggest telcos are leading the ‘race to renewables’, ranking the biggest companies on their commitment to cleaner energy. Somewhat surprisingly, Australia’s largest telco emitter is also Greenpeace’s #1 renewables role model.

Telstra has been ranked in first place in Greenpeace’s renewable ratings, despite also being the biggest energy consumer in the Australian telco and tech space. As Telstra is also Australia’s biggest telco by market share — and one of the country’s largest companies regardless of industry, being listed on the ASX 20 — it’s expected that the brand would be responsible for more emissions than smaller competitors. However, Telstra’s demonstrated focus on switching to 100% renewable energy by 2025 has seen Greenpeace give it the green light in this week’s report.

Telstra leads ‘race to renewables’

Greenpeace’s latest briefing paper, Solar Streaming: Who’s Leading The Telco, Tech & IT Race To Renewables?, looks at the shift among major Australian telecommunications, IT and tech sectors towards wind, solar and renewable energies. With Greenpeace estimating that these industries consume around 4% of Australian electricity, pressure is on telcos and data centres to transition to renewable electricity — and it’s the biggest providers currently leading the race.

The top nine biggest electricity users in Australian tech have been ranked by Greenpeace based on their commitment to reducing carbon emissions and switching to greener sources of energy. And despite its status as a major consumer of electricity, Telstra is in first place thanks to its 2020 pledge to switch to 100% renewable electricity by 2025.

Prior to Telstra’s 2020 renewables announcement, the company signed two power purchase agreements (PPAs) in 2017 for the supply of renewable energy. Telstra is a lead partner in the 226-megawatt Murra Warra Wind Farm in Victoria, which supplies enough power for 222,000 homes, as well as the sole customer of the Emerald Solar Park in Queensland.

Telstra also confirmed that it is entering into a new long-term PPA with the Global Power Generation Crookwell 3 wind farm, which the telco says will produce 58-megawatts of decarbonised energy each year. Production on the Crookwell 3 wind farm will begin in mid-2023, and contribute to Telstra’s 2025 renewable energy goals.

“Big businesses like Telstra have a responsibility to be good climate citizens, to have a strategy and to set an example for others,” said Telstra CEO Andrew Penn of the company’s most recent PPA.

“As one of the biggest energy users in the nation, it matters when we take action to both decarbonise our operations and clean up the grid for the future.”

TPG going green, but Optus and NBN Co falling behind

Other Australian telcos and suppliers included in Greenpeace’s report are TPG Telecom, Optus, and NBN Co. TPG achieved a third-place ranking in Greenpeace’s renewables ratings, thanks to also committing to switching to 100% renewable electricity by 2025 for all Australian operations. TPG Telecom includes not only TPG itself, but also iiNet, Internode, Westnet, Vodafone and Felix Mobile, after last year’s TPG-Vodafone merger.

While Telstra and TPG made the top three for green tech, Optus and NBN Co are in eighth and ninth place respectively, due to both companies’ lack of commitment toward a switch to 100% renewables. Neither company has entered into a renewable purchasing deal, with Optus’ failings notable due to its status as Australia’s second-largest telco emitter.

Greenpeace’s renewable ranking of major Australian telcos, tech and IT companies is as follows:

  1. Telstra
  2. Amazon Australia
  3. TPG Telecom
  4. Global Switch Australia
  5. Next DC
  6. Equinix Australia
  7. Fujitsu
  8. Optus
  9. NBN Co

Two notable omissions are AGL and Origin, neither of which were included Greenpeace’s latest briefing. Despite being primarily energy providers, both companies have recently entered the telecommunications sector, offering mobile and NBN plans which can be bundled alongside their respective gas and electricity options.

Greenpeace acknowledges that AGL and Origin each ‘dwarf’ the included tech and telco companies in carbon pollution. In fact, AGL is currently Australia’s biggest polluter overall, producing roughly 8% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions (that’s over 42 million tonnes throughout 2019-2020).

Still, the companies featured include some of Australia’s biggest NBN providers, with Telstra, TPG, and Vodafone among those demonstrating a commitment to green energy. If you’re looking for a new NBN plan, you’ll find plans from Greenpeace-ranked brands in the table below.

The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of monthly cost, from lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to referral partners.

Green telcos on the rise: Belong and Felix Mobile

Alongside calling out the big names, Greenpeace’s report has also acknowledged the focus on environmental responsibility from smaller providers. With more Australian consumers factoring climate consciousness into their purchasing decisions, two SIM-only mobile providers have emerged as leaders in the green telco game.

Belong claims to be Australia’s first carbon-neutral telco, and like parent company Telstra has committed to going 100% renewable by 2025. The brand offers both mobile plans and NBN, and offsets its carbon emissions by investing in renewable energy projects and offering products that meet the criteria set by the Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard.

Felix Mobile is a relatively new entrant in the telco space, and like Belong meets Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard certification requirements by investing in projects that offset its emissions. The TPG-owned provider is also powered by 100% renewable electricity, and plants one tree per month for each of its customers in partnership with One Tree Planted.

Both Belong and Felix offer BYO phone plans at affordable prices. Felix’s plan also stands out by offering unlimited talk, text and data for just $35 per month, although data speeds are capped at 20Mbps (which is still fast enough for social media, video streaming and more).

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