Big Interview

Greening the infrastructure

Alexandra Rasch full res.jpg

Sustainability and renewable practices are top of the agenda at this year’s ITW conference. Caban’s Alexandra Rasch speaks to Natalie Bannerman about why infrastructure is the centre of decarbonisation activities

Knowing where to begin is often the biggest stumbling block when it comes to sustainability and decarbonisation.

But the thing to remember – according to Alexandra Rasch, founder and CEO of Caban Systems – is that the driver for green infrastructure comes from the carrier.

“Carriers are the ones dictating what they want their infrastructure to look like in the next 10 years,” she says.

Combined with this, she says, operators are now starting to include considerations of cost-efficiency and sustainability.

“One of things they do today is say ‘I want my network to be completely carbon-neutral by a certain date’ and work backwards from there.”

Under the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, there are three scopes used in the measuring of greenhouse gas emissions.

Scope 1 covers direct emissions – in other words, fuel used on sites. Scope 2 covers indirect emissions, while Scope 3 includes indirect emissions in the supply chain.

Through its consulting arm, Caban Systems intervenes at the point of network planning to work out how to manage the sites at the locations that they are defining in Scope 1, helping to move away from direct fuel emissions.

The company recognises that there are already some carriers who are quite advanced in their decarbonisation journeys.

“We have some very sophisticated customers. Some who have very clear corporate goals and clear local roles as well as mechanisms to follow those protocols and to sustain and measure them.”

On the other end of the spectrum, there are some companies that Rasch says are not willing to invest in a taskforce that helps them plan for and implement their sustainability goals.

One of the biggest difficulties faced in the energy industry is that every country has its own challenges, particularly in developing markets, making solutions tricky to implement as it’s not one size fits all.

“For example, you might have 100% grid penetration in a country because it’s an island, but the cost of energy might be extremely high because it’s based on bunker fuel. Or you might have a country in Africa that isn’t as well connected but the power that they do have is very cheap because its renewable.”

For these types of markets, in particular, Caban uses an index based on the grid stability and the cost of the grid.

“For countries that are in developing markets, in some cases it’s actually cheaper for them to move to something that’s more sustainable than what they are using today,” Rasch says.

Also, a country might be classed as developed, but might still be behind in terms of its energy practices. For example, the US “uses a lot of fuel and lead acid battery packs” – all of which has to do with the topography, as well as the policies and regulations in each individual jurisdiction.

The effects of the pandemic have had a polarising influence on sustainability goals. The need for more infrastructure – better connectivity that is disaggregated or distributed – has meant that the quality of service on “uptime” needs to be higher, all driven by its power source.

“It has also deaccelerated the renewable energy or the sustainability aspects, because it creates a domino effect on the economy. If things are more expensive, it has a ripple effect,” Rasch says.

With innovation growing at unprecedented rates, there are questions around the emergence of use cases such as the metaverse and its massive amount of data and infrastructure requirements. Can we continue to progress as a technological society and still keep green goals at the heart of it?

“They can absolutely co-exist,” Rasch says. The way to do that is at the infrastructure level with respect to carbon reduction, carbon-neutrality and sustainable practices. It has to be done on a physical level.”

With the launch of its Monaco energy management system, Caban Systems is addressing a few key energy needs. First, it “helps them move away from legacy lead acid systems that are passive by nature”. Instead of using the system in the event of grid failure, it is integrated as part of the infrastructure – meaning that it optimises each site.

In tandem, and leveraging automation, the company, Rasch says, is “growing our manufacturing capabilities from about 15/16 units a week to something like 60 units a week”.

Expanding its geographic footprint is top of the list of priorities for Rasch and her team at Caban, with new regions on the roadmap.

With an existing market leading position in Latin America, the next targets are the US, Asia and parts of the Middle East.

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