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Energy consumption and energy efficiency of telecommunication networks are important for network operators regarding both, cost and sustainability aspects. Among several options, load-adaptive network operation-where the provided network capacity is coupled dynamically to the temporally fluctuating traffic characteristics-is a prominent and promising opportunity to improve network energy efficiency. General principles of load-adaptive network operation regimes are presented for a universal broadband operator network and their effects to network energy efficiency are explored. Based on a structure model of a telecommunication network, techniques for adjusting the capacity load-adaptively in different network sections are discussed with respect to the energy-saving potential, the current status and the challenges for application in networks ahead. Operator network sections as well as customer networks are covered; double-digit percentages of energy savings per network section are obtained in load-adaptive operation regimes as compared to the conventional network operation. When applying all those techniques in a holistic view to current realistic large operator networks, the double-digit per-section improvements transform into a significantly lower overall energy saving potential: This is caused by large parts of legacy network equipment forming a base electrical load not amenable to load-adaptive operation. When coupling the power consumption of networks to the temporally and spatially varying traffic demands in load-adaptive regimes their currently very predictable power draw behavior changes and may have significant effects in the interplay with power utilities in the upcoming Smart Energy transformation.