Climate change the ‘defining challenge of the 2020s’: Telstra CEO Andy Penn

Telstra faces $50 million bushfire bill

Andrew Penn Telstra
Telstra

Telstra’s chief executive officer Andy Penn expects the total impact of the recent bushfires on the telco to be in the order of $50 million, with the company pledging $10 million in assistance packages and donations.

In remarks prepared for an American Chamber of Commerce in Australia event, the Telstra CEO called for “urgent action” on climate change, with “changing weather patterns deliver more frequent bushfires, floods, droughts and storms.”

Penn said Telstra infrastructure had been hit by temperatures up to 1000 degrees during the bushfires on Australia’s east coast. A number of the company’s mobile towers were destroyed, and even as fires continued to burn Telstra rolled out replacement fibre in some areas.

Overwhelmingly, however, it was the loss of mains power that had the biggest impact on telco services, Penn said. “We were ultimately able to limit the physical loss of sites to six out of potentially hundreds,” the CEO said.

“Large teams of Telstra staff and technicians across the nation worked incredibly hard to support their communities and maintain and recover services even while their own homes and families were at risk.”

Addressing access to power was a focus of a government-convened telco resilience roundtable convened last month.

Penn said that Telstra was one of Australia’s largest power consumers and was focused on addressing its carbon footprint.

“With the volume of data on our network increasing 30-50 per cent per annum, the upward pressure on our energy consumption is considerable,” Penn said.

The telco managed to reduce emissions intensity 24 per cent in FY18, with absolute emissions down 4 per cent. In late 2017, the telco was part of a consortium that signed a power purchase agreement for the 226 megawatt first stage of the Murra Warra Wind Farm.

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