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Future ready: Yettel’s smart solutions for a sustainable building management

Jul 8, 2024, 10:06:58 AMNews by : Yettel
Yettel Bulgaria covers 100% of the electricity consumption at its headquarters with renewable energy sources.

Future ready: Yettel’s smart solutions for a sustainable building management

In 2022,  demonstrating its responsibility and commitment to creating a better, cleaner and more inclusive future, Yettel Bulgaria announced its long-term Sustainability Strategy 2028. With it, the telecom sets clear and measurable goals in four key areas - environment, people, technology for a sustainable future and governance based on integrity and transparency.

One of the biggest challenges we face today as a society is finding a way to balance economic growth with environmental protection. Considering that buildings are responsible for 40% of global energy consumption and 33% of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), making them more energy efficient will significantly contribute to the overall goal of climate neutrality.

Striving to become the world's first climate-neutral continent by 2050, the EU has initiated several legislative changes and directives as part of the transition to a net-zero society. The newly revised Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), which entered into force in May 2024, aims to progressively reduce GHG emissions and energy consumption in the EU's building sector. One of the ultimate goals is for all new residential and non-residential buildings to have zero on-site emissions from fossil fuels, starting from January 1, 2028, for publicly-owned buildings, and January 1, 2030, for all other new buildings. The strengthened Directive contains new provisions to steadily phase-out fossil fuels from heating in existing buildings and boost the deployment of solar power installations.

Achieving such ambitious targets requires quick and effective action. To be sustainable and energy efficient, buildings – both new and existing – need to change. While new buildings benefit from numerous innovations in construction and materials, the existing building stock faces the challenging task of completely transforming the way it is managed and maintained in order to reduce its energy consumption. Nevertheless, Yettel Bulgaria, a leading telecommunications company in the sustainable development field, proves that it can be done, despite being far from easy. Since 2023, 100% of the electricity consumed by the headquarters building is supplied by renewable energy sources. 

A deep-dive into the facility management and sustainability strategy of the telecom showcases its long-standing efforts to improve the energy efficiency of its buildings and optimize the electricity consumption. A number of innovations and pilot projects are already crowning the team's efforts to use fewer resources and limit emissions with success. For the last nine years, the telecom has continuously upgraded the Building Management System (BMS) of the central office building in Sofia, which precisely monitors the entire infrastructure - electrical systems, UPS (uninterruptible power supply), elevators, air conditioning in both common areas and individual halls, as well as in server rooms. The telecom's primary focus is on reducing electricity consumption by implementing measures in two main areas: minimising losses and utilising alternative energy sources. 

“Sustainable facility management goes beyond cost reduction and short-term business benefits. Its primary and long-term objective is to establish the groundwork for responsible resource utilisation and the integration of sustainable practices for prolonged and efficient building lifespan. Our task is to maintain a balance between managing the building efficiently and improving the indoor environment to provide not only comfort but also favourable conditions for work and collaboration. In this context, technological advancements significantly ease these processes, offering novel solutions to transform nearly any building into a smart one", says Galin Rashkov, Facility and Fleet Manager at Yettel Bulgaria.

By integrating smart zone controllers into the BMS, the company can precisely monitor the indoor microclimate and adjust the functions of the air conditioning and heating systems in real-time. A new Internet of Things (IoT) solution builds up the energy-efficient cooling and heating system and enables automated temperature control. For instance, when a window is opened, a signal is sent to the control function of the air conditioning and heating units, which then automatically stops the supply of energy to that area. The working mechanism of the system is developed according to the so-called retrofitting method (application of modern technologies and functions to older systems), thanks to which the company prevents energy loss from heating and cooling needs. The added value of this project in terms of energy savings is expected to be an average of 5% saved power annually in Yettel.

During non-working hours and weekends some of the systems switch off completely while others enter energy-saving mode. That allows maintaining lower temperatures when there is no work activity in the building - around 18-19 degrees Celsius in winter (in contrast to the standard requirement of 23 degrees Celsius during working hours) and correspondingly higher temperatures in summer. All this makes it possible to comply with occupational health and safety standards, whilst the company conserves heat energy that would otherwise be wasted. As a result of these improvements, in 2022 Yettel was able to reduce its energy consumption at its headquarters by 40% compared to previous years' averages. Тhis achievement is further supported by equipping the company sites with LED lighting – Yettel stores, offices, warehouse and repair centre use only LED lights as the most energy-efficient option available.

Yettel’s example demonstrates how the paradigm is shifting for high-end office buildings – their function is no longer to be completely isolated from their surroundings, but to create a strong connection between life in the building and the environment. Thus, they can benefit from natural resources and reduce their carbon footprint. An important step for the telecom in this direction is the installation of a photovoltaic system of solar panels on the roof of Yettel's headquarters. This widely-used method for commercial buildings efficiently utilizes available natural energy and makes use of otherwise unused space. The system produces 36,177 kWh of electricity per year - enough to power a household for 10 years - and now partially covers the building's electricity consumption with solar energy. Additionally, hot water for sanitary use is provided by solar collectors, saving around 45 kW of installed power in water heaters and significantly improving the building's energy efficiency. Every day, the sun's rays meet the domestic hot water needs for over 800 people – employees and visitors. 

The real milestone in Yettel’s transition to green energy is the 10-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) that Yettel and CETIN Bulgaria signed with Electrohold Trade. As a result, around 80% of Yettel's total consumption and around 86% of CETIN's is now supplied by a 123 MW photovoltaic plant. The large-scale project saves nearly 33 thousand tonnes of carbon emissions per year and thanks to it, the telecom will reduce its carbon footprint by 60% in Scope 1 and 2 (emissions over which the company has direct influence) in 2024 compared to base year 2022. 

“All these initiatives are yet another example of our determination to move away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy and to decrease our carbon emissions. We at Yettel feel a great responsibility to do our share and contribute to a greener future, especially as a company in the telecommunications sector and due to the nature of our services which consume significant amounts of energy. That is a key driver for our ambitious goals to reduce our negative impact on the environment, part of our Sustainability Strategy 2028”, says Margita Kolcheva, ESG Manager at Yettel Bulgaria.

Apart from its significant impact on the sector, as electricity is the main source of carbon emissions in telecommunications – the PPA contributes to sustainable facility management by covering approximately 95-96% of the HQ’s energy consumption. Combined with the 4-5% supplied from the rooftop solar park, this makes the building entirely reliant on renewable energy sources. 

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