With Huawei’s core business still feeling the pressure of US sanctions, the company is diversifying, with more energy efficient tech a key focus

Huawei first announced its new Digital Power business unit last summer, aimed at developing low-carbon systems for various market segments, including data centres and electric vehicles. 

At the time, the Chinese vendor noted that reaching carbon neutrality had become a shared target for more than 140 markets worldwide, with many countries beginning to launch legislation to force businesses to adopt a greener future. The company also noted that electricity and transportation represented around 40% and 21%, respectively, of global carbon emissions, making these areas prime targets for technical innovation to help businesses meet these new goals.

When the Digital Power unit was first announced, Huawei said the subsidiary had around 6,000 employees, around 60% of which were engaged with R&D projects, including smart photovoltaic (PV) systems related for renewable energy sources and energy storage. 

Now, the extent of the company’s wider commitment to this new unit has become clear, with Huawei announcing that it will spend roughly $632 million to build the unit’s new headquarters and R&D centre in Shenzhen.

This announcement follows an agreement back in January in which Huawei Digital Power and China Resources Power Holdings Co Ltd, an operator of coal power plants across China, partnered to help develop clean energy projects, including smart power plants. 

China’s relationship with green energy is complicated. While the country is nominally in support of global carbon neutral targets, it has also made it very clear that the country’s economic needs will take precedence over any green ambitions. Last year, China faced much criticism when, two days prior to the start of the COP26 climate conference, it announced that its new goals were to reach peak carbon emissions before 2030 and target carbon neutrality before 2060 – goals falling far short of  

Achieving this goal would reportedly involve shutting down roughly 600 coal-fired power plants but, in the meantime, China has showed worrying signs of leaning more heavily coal-based power, saying in August last year it would build 43 new power plants to meet the needs of its growing economy. 

Just last week, China said its coal plants would run at full capacity to meet energy demand for production and residential consumption, all the while touting the carbon-neutral Beijing Winter Olympics as the greenest Games ever.

Nonetheless, there is clearly an enormous green energy opportunity for company’s like Huawei, both domestically and internationally. Furthermore, there are geopolitical factors in play, with Huawei being hit wave after wave of US sanctions in recent years. This last left the company’s smartphone business decimated, forcing it to diversify into various new technology fields, from electric vehicles to smart agriculture.

In fact, the company was linked to discussions with car manufacturer Volkswagen just last week, with the Germany automotive specialist reportedly looking to purchase parts of Huawei’s nascent autonomous driving technology. Huawei has said previously it is aiming to develop driverless cars by 2025.


Are operators doing enough to make the telecoms sector more environmentally friendly? Find out the latest news in telco sustainability at this year’s Total Telecom Congress 

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