PTI are working with ESCOs and targeting Net Zero

Power as a service is rapidly becoming a critical offering for towercos operating in the Caribbean and Latin America

Read this article to learn:

  • Why PTI has begun offering power as a service
  • Why PTI is aiming for carbon neutrality
  • How power management fits alongside PTI’s wider strategy
  • How PTI will be working with ESCOs to offer a full service to its customers

Phoenix Tower International (PTI) is active in eighteen markets in North, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Europe – so the decisions it makes have global ramifications. As CALA’s towercos move away from their exclusively steel and grass origins, PTI is emerging as a leader in offering power as a service to MNOs to reduce their reliance on dirty back-up power and expensive grid energy. In this interview, TowerXchange speaks with Shylesh Moras, SVP of Operations, Development and IT, about PTI’s new service offering and how it meshes with the towerco’s wider ESG goals and aim to become carbon neutral.

Phoenix Tower International are Platinum Sponsor of TowerXchange Meetup Americas, join them this 13-14 July online and in-person in Boca Raton. Find out more here.

TowerXchange: Phoenix Tower International (PTI) has grown its global presence significantly over the last few years. For those who don’t know PTI, can you please introduce yourselves?

Shylesh Moras, Senior Vice President of Operations, Development & IT, Phoenix Tower International:

PTI was founded in 2013 by Dagan Kasavana with the goal to build an international towerco from day one. We help our business partners—customers, sellers, landlords, and communities—achieve their goals through our principles of hard work and integrity. We are well capitalised with our majority backer Blackstone Group and a minority investor John Hancock Life Insurance.

In the last seven years, we have expanded to 18 markets, in Americas and Europe, with 13,000 towers, DAS, fibre and similar assets. We initially focused our growth story on the Americas and the markets which the management team were most familiar with from experience in prior towercos. Those relationships helped us grow the business.

International is in the name for a reason. Many towercos operated for a significant number of years in one market before expanding, but we were always focused on multiple markets. In 2015, we made our first major acquisition in the Dominican Republic with around 200 towers acquired, then later acquired 600 sites from T-Mobile in the US. Subsequent years saw entrance to several new countries in Central and South America and more recently looked to Europe.

I joined in 2014 shortly after Blackstone’s initial investment and I am an engineer by training. I first met Dagan when working for Morrison Hershfield in Atlanta and when he needed a head of operations, it made sense to move to PTI.

TowerXchange: What has driven you to add “power as a service” to your portfolio of offerings given that you predominantly work in “good grid” markets?

Shylesh Moras, Senior Vice President of Operations, Development & IT, Phoenix Tower International:

PTI is always in tune with the needs of our customers. MNOs are focused on reducing capex and opex overall and power is an area where we realised that we could help.

Our markets are viewed as good grid markets and power as a service has traditionally been something which you see more in towercos operating in Africa and Asia. So yes, the grid is good in many markets but there is more to the story than that.

In our Caribbean markets – the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Martinique, and Guadeloupe – off grid sites do not predominate as in much of Africa, but relatively speaking there are a fair number of bad grid sites to operate. Virtually every site has diesel generators, and grid outages can range from 3 to 15 hours a day. The costs of back-up power really add up in these markets.

Even putting bad grid aside, in many markets, grid power can be expensive. Power generation in the Caribbean is generally fossil fuelled and expensive, so investing in on-site renewables which reduce grid consumption can also drive cost reductions.

Combining these means we can reduce opex while also reducing emissions – it’s great.

We are starting in the Caribbean but that’s only one piece of it. Where we can use renewables to save on expensive grid energy, opportunities present themselves across many of our “good grid” markets. There are markets with grid good enough that we have almost no diesel gensets but if grid power is expensive enough, and if you have a good renewable solution there, and if you can get the opex savings for the operator right, then that is a great solution which we will explore.

TowerXchange: For operators that currently give little thought to their power requirements, what advantages would they see from working with you?

Shylesh Moras, Senior Vice President of Operations, Development & IT, Phoenix Tower International:

Even though the power requirements and costs are very different for Africa versus the Americas or Europe, power is still a big part of the opex. Energy is not something which MNOs are ignoring. In this world we are operating in, with operators hit hard by COVID, there is a focus on reducing opex. Through power as a service, there is an opportunity to deliver those opex savings to them.

Outside of that, there is also a capex component to this. Many generators are already 10 to 15 years old and near the end of useful life. If we can replace those with renewables systems and eliminate the operators needs to deploy capital, it is a win. They want to put capital into their networks, not diesel generators.

Finally, because of the old equipment on sites, operators generally don’t have much modern monitoring of their sites’ operations. By upgrading to modern technology on a power as a service basis, we can offer them information on their sites which they currently lack.

TowerXchange: Why are you working with ESCOs rather than building an in-house power offering? Can you share which ESCOs are signed up as strategic partners?

Shylesh Moras, Senior Vice President of Operations, Development & IT, Phoenix Tower International:

We have been evaluating different technologies and models to look for the best solutions for our business needs and customer objectives. There are a variety of solutions out there and different solutions work better in one market than another. Each site and market differ.

For all those reasons we felt it was better to explore working with ESCO partners to see what they can offer to our customers, rather than build up all the different flavours of expertise internally. One ESCO I will mention is Caban Systems. We have been working with them for years and have a number of active projects with them and enjoy the working relationship greatly.

TowerXchange: What mix of renewables, battery and traditional diesel genset are you proposing for newly acquired “power as a service” sites?

Shylesh Moras, Senior Vice President of Operations, Development & IT, Phoenix Tower International:

There is no one size fits all. We take a very site-specific design approach. The answer will depend on load requirements, grid quality and things like solar irradiation.

For example, if a site has lower power requirements and decent grid availability, then batteries and solar are enough, and allow us to eliminate the generator. But higher power sites with poorer grid availability require diesel generators; we will still use battery and solar, but when those are extinguished, you still need the back up of diesel. But in every case, we can reduce grid consumption and diesel to produce savings.

TowerXchange: What are PTI’s own ESG goals and what are your plans to reduce your own impact on the environment?

Shylesh Moras, Senior Vice President of Operations, Development & IT, Phoenix Tower International:

As part of PTI’s own ESG goals, we are moving towards full carbon neutrality. We are now at the end of the process and will be certified by Q4 2021.

We are using a variety of methods to get there. One is working on solar irradiation lighting to replace aviation lighting with solar. Alone each site uses little energy, but across 1,000s of sites it adds up.

We have also started doing more work with drones. The quantity of data produced is much more sufficient than with manual surveys which reduce site visits and results in fewer truck rolls and fewer vehicle emissions. Later, we will look at offsetting and how we can use that to invest in the markets we work in.

And of course, our power as a service solution is another ESG solution that will have a huge impact on fossil fuel consumption for back-up and primary power.

Outside of that, we are consolidating and taking down towers as a way to help to reduce emissions and save costs in certain markets. There are markets where we have acquired sites from multiple MNOs and we are now taking the opportunity to consolidate those sites, relocate equipment and thereby eliminate one of the towers. This reduces tower footprint and eliminates the cost and carbons emissions of an additional site.

We are also thinking about our social aspect and are working on rural connectivity, with BTS projects in Costa Rica, Peru, Bolivia and in France where we are able to service underserved communities with connectivity solutions.

TowerXchange: Which internal and external stakeholders are key for achieving carbon neutrality?

Shylesh Moras, Senior Vice President of Operations, Development & IT, Phoenix Tower International:

Starting with the external side, the entire supply chain is involved. The carbon neutral certification process looks at scope 2 and 3 emissions (Scope 2 emissions refer to emissions created to generate the power which you use. Scope 3 refer to emissions created by your suppliers). So many of your emissions are created in your supply chain and outside of your direct control.

This is leading us to revamp our procurement process and to understand which suppliers have their own ESG goals and do things internally to have an impact.

Customers also contribute to our scope 2 and 3 emissions. By working with ESCOs to reduce the carbon-intensity of their power, we are able to reduce our own impact on the environment.

Internally the answer is similar; you have to involve everyone. As we look at internal emissions, every employee has a part to play in achieving neutrality.

Through the pandemic and related shutdowns, we have moved to a work from home programme which has a really positive impact. We are continuing to be flexible right now and are seeing a good impact on reductions in commuting and vehicle emissions as a consequence.

TowerXchange: What role will PTI play in the wider telecom infrastructure industry to encourage other towercos, MNOs and digital infra providers to reduce their impact on the environment?

Shylesh Moras, Senior Vice President of Operations, Development & IT, Phoenix Tower International:

What I’ve learned is that most of our MNO customers share our own ESG goals of reducing emissions and improving their social impact. There’s a really good alignment between us and them and, for that reason, our ESCO offering will really tap into their ESG goals as well as supporting opex and capex optimisation.

I hope that PTI going carbon neutral is an inspiration to other towercos as is our commitment to ESG generally. We want to set an example for the whole industry to act as good corporate citizens.

Phoenix Tower International are Platinum Sponsor of TowerXchange Meetup Americas, join them this 13-14 July online and in-person in Boca Raton. Find out more here.

Leave a Reply