Climate change: How New Zealand's broadband infrastructure can help secure a greener future

  • 22/06/2022
  • Sponsored by - Chorus
Climate change: How New Zealand's broadband infrastructure can help secure a greener future
Photo credit: Getty Images

With wild weather events, encroaching sea lines and blazing bush fires, the reality of climate change is starker every year and the consequences of inaction are growing increasingly dire. 

The Government's landmark emissions reduction plan was recently unveiled but reaching a net-zero future requires every Kiwi citizen and company being clear-eyed about necessary change and doing their part to ensure a greener future.

Chorus is rising to the climate challenge by developing its own emissions reduction plan which aims to lower the company’s electricity use by 25 percent over the next five years. 

"We can't just wait for others to help us out with this challenge, we need to take action ourselves and think differently to this big problem that we're all facing," says Chorus Head of Sustainability Hannah Taylor.  

"It will come as no surprise that 92 percent of our emissions are from our electricity use across our broadband networks, so for Chorus our main focus is looking at the energy use across our networks and ensuring that we're only using the electricity that we need."

And Hannah says Chorus is aiming to have the electricity they can't avoid using come from renewable sources instead of fossil fuels.

"We're looking at our own plan to use and create renewables. We're already using solar on small sites and a couple of our exchanges - we'll be extending that number over the next five years. We’ll use this trial to understand how we could potentially be completely renewable in the future."

Climate change: How New Zealand's broadband infrastructure can help secure a greener future
Photo credit: Getty Images

Chorus is also retiring more resource intensive broadband technology, such as copper, in areas where the far faster and more efficient fibre network is available. 

Modernising New Zealand's internet infrastructure continues to play a huge role in reducing the emissions profile of our traditional infrastructure, where transport currently produces over half of our country's overall energy-related emissions. 

New Zealand's superfast fibre broadband network, built in partnership between the Government and Chorus, reaches 87 percent of the country allowing Kiwis to lessen their commute in and out of the office and be productive online from almost any location.   

While we all learned the value of being able to work remotely during the past two years, as the acute crisis of COVID-19 fades and the slower moving crisis of climate change comes to the foreground, the same adaptations we made for the pandemic can be expanded upon. 

Of course, no-one wants to just trade emissions from one source for another, so Chorus teamed up with other climate conscious fibre companies to study the carbon footprint of their technologies and found that fibre's emissions stayed low even as its usage increased.

"Whereas in other technologies, you see emissions go up as more data and more speed is put through the network. So that gave us a lot of assurance that fibre is the right thing for the future," says Hannah.

Climate change: How New Zealand's broadband infrastructure can help secure a greener future
Photo credit: Getty Images

Fibre's ability to scale up while staying green is particularly important since New Zealanders have shown a near insatiable appetite for data over the last decade. 

"Back in 2011, the average household data usage was just ten gigabytes (GB) a month, which isn't really that much data when you think about it. Now, a decade later, we're at an average of 500 GB per household, a 50-fold increase," says Hannah.  

While the fibre network already delivers blistering speeds of up to eight gigabits per second, that's in no way the upper limit of what the network is capable of and as the needs of business and consumers continue to grow, the underlying infrastructure will unlock further speeds to keep pace.

The increase in data use is reflective of a broader shift in the global economy from producing value through tangible assets towards intangible ones i.e. from the ICT sector instead of extractive industries such as mining. 

New Zealand's level broadband access means we are well placed to be world leaders in the growing digital economy and reap the environmental benefits. There is a hard limit on how many cows we can cram per hectare of land but there is no ceiling on the amount of code we can export; all facilitated by the fibre network. 

However, as the economy becomes increasingly digital, it's imperative all New Zealanders are brought along for the journey. Hannah acknowledges that there is still work to be done to ensure every Kiwi, particularly those in rural areas, have access to the high-speed internet.

"I think New Zealand has a bit of work to do in order to say with our hand on heart that we have reached digital equity but I think given our size, it's not unachievable."

While questions of climate change and the potential catastrophes can be overwhelming and anxiety-inducing, Hannah advises slowing down and focusing on what’s in your control.  

"Taking a step back and asking: What can we do together? What can we do to reduce our impact? That's where the biggest change will come from, and we have to do that as a collective." 

Chorus will share its emissions reduction plan in August but to ensure you're getting the fastest, efficient option, talk to your internet service provider about fibre or head over to Chorus to learn more.

This article was created for Chorus