Ericsson mobile service stations use biodiesel in Nigeria

By | December 15, 2006
The use of biodiesel blends, such as B20, continues to grow in popularity across the globe, gaining acceptance in the political arena, among motorists and through endorsements by large corporations. As part of its corporate social responsibility program, international telecommunications giant Ericsson has also joined the renewable energy cause. Ericsson teamed up with multinational telecommunications company MTN Group and the Global Systems for Mobile Communication Association, which represents more than 690 mobile phone operators in 214 countries, and plans to begin fueling its mobile base stations in Nigeria with biodiesel blends in early 2007.

With only 25 percent of Nigeria currently connected to the electricity grid, the use of base stations makes mobile communications accessible in the developing nation. The three telecommunications groups have set up a pilot biodiesel-powered base station in Lagos, Nigeria, and will later deploy mobile base stations to rural areas in southeastern and southwestern regions of the country. A supply chain has been set up to benefit the local agricultural community through the use of homegrown feedstocks such as groundnuts, pumpkin seeds, jatropha and palm oil to produce the biodiesel.

Although Sweden-based Ericsson is still designing the network, plans call for 20 to 40 base stations, said Elaine Weidman-Grunewald, director of corporate responsibility for Ericsson. The concept of using biodiesel has many benefits, Weidman-Grunewald said. "If you look at the petroleum use, the amount used in one average base station is 15,000 liters (approximately 4,000 gallons) per year to fuel parts of Nigeria that are not connected to the power grid," she said.

Project leaders expect that the use of cleaner-burning fuel will result in fewer site visits, extend the life of each base station and environmentally friendly benefits.

Even more important, however, is the positive effect that Ericsson hopes the project will have on the poorer areas of Nigeria Weidman-Grunewald said. Since the biodiesel can be produced locally, it will create local jobs. She and her colleagues will be examining the effects of the pilot program in Nigeria with hopes of implementing similar projects elsewhere in Africa, as well as India. In fact, Ericsson is already in the beginning stages of planning in those countries, Weidman-Grunewald said.

"There is a positive economic and social spin-off, and we are trying to measure the contribution we bring," Weidman-Grunewald said. "We are also looking at solar, as well as other alternative energy sources, but they don't have the same community contribution that you get through biodiesel."
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