ABB uses smart tech to solve humanity’s most pressing challenges

Carbon emissions are a significant cause of worry for India and the world. To solve this we need renewable energy. But, that’s not all, significant savings in emissions can be achieved with the help of energy efficiency. ABB is an interesting company because 57% of its product portfolio is based on renewable energy and energy efficiency products. According to ABB advanced technologies enabling the Fourth Industrial Revolution are our best hope of addressing the climate emergency.

ABB is an engineering and technology company that drives the digital transformation of industries. This 130+ year old company operates in more than 100 countries with about 110,000 employees across the globe. ABB has been present in India for over a century and is a listed company with multiple manufacturing locations, global feeder factories and development & engineering centers. ABB has four businesses, Electrification, Industrial Automation, Motion, and Robotics & Discrete Automation. The company believes that for it to lead transformation in the 4th industrial revolution it needs to build a strong foundation based on Health, Safety, Integrity and Sustainability.

According to Sanjeev Sharma, CEO and MD ABB India, “Sustainability is not something extraneous and only aligned to current thinking but , it is core to our business for decades. We first focus on things that we can do to reduce our carbon footprint, then we focus on products and services that can help others.” He says, “In India we use up to 30% more energy to produce one unit of anything across sectors. Hence the first step companies need to take is to improve energy efficiency at every level. Changing to energy efficient motors for instance can increase cost savings between 20-30%. Our approach to reducing energy usage is increasing efficiency, making product elements more environment friendly and using digitalization. In addition, ABB has also developed high and medium-voltage switchgear with AirPlus™ technology, which is a ground-breaking eco-efficient gas mixture with 99.99% lower global warming potential (GWP).”

The energy portfolio of ABB therefore focuses on Smart cities, Smart transport, Smart living, and Smart distribution. Share of ABB’s eco-efficiency portfolio is at more than 57% of ABB revenues globally, and aims to be at 60% in 2020. Around the world, ABB operations are increasingly choosing to purchase certified “green” electricity and its facilities are installing on-site photovoltaic (PV) power plants to reduce environmental impact.

ABB impacts sustainability, by providing products and services to companies and cities to reduce their environmental footprint. This is very important because, around the world, expanding cities are under growing pressure to reduce pollution and congestion, while providing clean energy and water, as well as the necessary jobs, goods and services for their inhabitants to have a good standard of living. The only way to achieve this is to build smarter cities, using advanced technologies and systems.

A similar challenge is confronting industry, which must reduce its environmental footprint while at the same time becoming more productive and providing affordable power, goods and services to a growing global population. Here, digitally enabled automation and robotics solutions hold the key to sustainable energy, manufacturing and production. Sanjeev Sharma says, “ABB Ability™ solutions collect and analyze data from across the industrial internet and provide customers with automated insights into their processes and equipment in order to increase the uptime, speed and yield of their operations, in the most energy efficient way. ABB’s smart technologies are helping to meet many of the underlying targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”

ABB India, is also following the global path by focusing on technological innovations and solutions that serve these needs. For instance, the company has implemented the Surat smart city water management system. Here ABB technologies have enabled the digitalization of the entire water management system of Surat with its flowmeters solution to measure water consumption in real-time. The city of Surat is known for its resilience and is the textile hub of the country – textile industry requires a lot of water. ABB’s smart digital flowmeters close to 300 in number help track, measure and optimize water consumption real-time and enable city corporation to manage water more efficiently.

Some ABB projects also have large social footprint. The Kaleshwaram Project, a first-of-its-kind lift irrigation project in the world, includes a range of ABB technologies including motors and switchgears. The Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation project brings drinking water and irrigation to the backward areas of Telangana and helps restore the ground water level to its original state. In addition to this, ABB’s soft starter solution was used to manage huge motors and high-voltage power systems for the Mahatma Gandhi Kalwakurthy Lift Irrigation Scheme.  Years of severe drought had created a water crisis in the Mahbubnagar region in Telangana, a state in southern India where half the population depended on agriculture to earn a living. The water table had virtually depleted and the monsoon rains only lasted three to four months a year. The only option for providing adequate water for farming and drinking was to pump it from the Krishna River to a reservoir nearly 300 meters above. From there, through the gravity-driven Mahatma Gandhi Kalwakurthy Lift Irrigation Scheme”, the water was channelled through nearly a hundred kilometres of canals to the parched farms and more than 300 villages that were at risk of turning to desert.

The global consensus on climate change is driving demand for products, solutions and services that increase energy efficiency and reduce consumption of non-renewable resources. Technological innovation will play a critical role in meeting these needs – improving people’s living standards while simultaneously reducing their impact on the environment. With this in mind, ABB’s mission is fully aligned with global efforts to bring the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within reach by 2030. While there is a moral imperative to support the SDGs, there are also material incentives. SDG-related opportunities involving building solutions, urban infrastructure, clean energy, energy efficiency and mobility are estimated to exceed $5 trillion

Published by Utkarsh Majmudar

Utkarsh Majmudar is a Fellow, IIM Ahmedabad and a professional with experience encompassing academics and administration at top business schools in India (IIM Lucknow, IIM Udaipur, and IIM Bangalore) and working with large corporations. His interest areas include corporate finance and CSR.

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