Insights from industry

In Conversation with ABB: The Future of Sustainable Electrification

insights from industryMorten WierodPresident of ElectrificationABB

AZoCleantech spoke to Morten Wierod, the President of Electrification at ABB, about the importance of electrification in our society. Weirod discusses ABB’s Energy Insights Survey Report and how the company is significantly impacting society's electrification while addressing pressing energy challenges.

Can you tell us briefly about your career so far and your role as President of ABB Electrification?

Having graduated from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim with a degree in Electrical Engineering, I joined the Swiss-headquartered tech giant ABB in 1989 as an Area Sales Manager for Automation Products in Norway, my home country. Since then, I have held many senior management positions in Norway and China.

In 2011, I was appointed Managing Director of the Control Products business unit in ABB’s Low Voltage Products division, followed by Managing Director of Drives in the Robotics and Motion business areas in 2015. I also became a member of ABB’s Executive Committee in April 2019.

As President of the Electrification Business Area (ELBA), I help tackle the world’s energy challenges. From reducing carbon emissions and energy use to keeping the lights on 24/7, we are helping to electrify the world in a safe, smart and sustainable way.

Why is it essential that we develop more sustainable electrification technology?

Demand for electricity continues to grow rapidly for several reasons, including population growth, increased urbanization, digitalization and connectivity, the push for sustainability, and rising global uncertainty.

It is evident that to mitigate the effects of climate change and meet ambitious global sustainability targets, we need to accelerate the shift to electricity and move away from fossil fuels while balancing the real needs of the planet and its people.

What are the current limitations of electrification?

There is a danger that we keep producing more energy to satisfy increasing demand from consumers, business and industry – and where does it stop?  We need to completely rethink how we produce, manage and use energy, embracing a ‘less is more’ approach. We must encourage businesses, citizens, and nations to become more conscious about not wasting energy and be more efficient with the currently produced energy.

We could keep generating more and more energy, but if we are more efficient with how we use it, then we will not need as much energy as we will better optimize the energy we already have. This has to be a win-win for people and the planet.

How does ABB Electrification stand out from other manufacturers?

We combine our technology and expertise in collaboration with our customers.

Our expertise supplies safe, sustainable power when and where you need it with the energy management tools to optimize efficiency and make the most of future renewable technologies.

We have innovative technology, digital tools, and expertise to find the right solution for each customer, enabling them to achieve their targets without compromising safety, sustainability, or performance.

What are the main energy challenges faced by society today and how can they be fixed?

The last few years have rocked our fundamental relationship with energy and highlighted several key challenges. A reliable and cheap electricity supply has been a given for many of us. Following recent geopolitical events, what once was taken for granted has become a concern for industry, society, and governments. This has put a reliable, clean, cost-effective electricity supply back at the top of the agenda for a more sustainable future.

As well as the need to help our customers decarbonize, we are focusing on critical megatrends, including digitalization, urbanization, the shift to electricity, and the energy transition. We will see a massive shift in our attitudes toward energy use and how we tackle them.

Our recent Energy Insights Survey Report highlighted business leaders' concerns about the cost and security of their energy supply. The feedback shows that these fluctuations in pricing and supply may cause serious ripple effects for industry, society, and the planet.

Businesses are diverting investment away from growth drivers, such as R&D and new tech, reducing spend on their people and deprioritizing their carbon reduction goals. This could have a severe knock-on effect on future generations.  

How do ABB Electrification’s products represent a vital step towards sustainably electrifying our society?

Our technologies and solutions focus on sustainably electrifying our world. From the latest innovations in digital switchgear to new battery energy storage solutions that help integrate more renewables and regulate the grid, we are assisting customers in reducing their environmental impact.

ABB, ELECTRIFICATION

Image Credit: ABB

With our own Mission to Zero, we have created blueprints to show just how much impact these technologies can have, enabling reductions in carbon emissions and reducing energy costs at our factories in Europe and Asia.

Why is it beneficial for businesses to upgrade their existing electrical equipment?

When you look at the return on investment, energy efficiency has the shortest payback time. This payback time is even shorter with the current backdrop of soaring energy prices and instability. It is relatively easy to identify and implement as the technology is already here.

With more sensors and measuring of where and how energy is consumed, it is quite straightforward to develop proposals and solutions to reduce waste and optimize increasing consumption.

In addition to the obvious environmental benefits, improving energy efficiency also has financial and business benefits as the sensible and quickest way to cut energy costs without compromising performance.

At the same time, we need to remember that the future is digital. Digitalization brings many benefits to businesses, giving them greater insight into their energy usage and the knowledge and tools to manage it and even sell some of it back to the grid to provide a solid ROI.

Can you highlight the most critical ABB Electrification developments so far?

Our innovation roadmap has been setting the pace for the future of electrification. There are many examples, from powering the world’s fastest EV charger to making the world’s tallest building ultra energy efficient.

ABB has pioneered the launch of AirPlus™ SF6-free Gas Insulated Switchgear. SF6 is the most potent greenhouse gas known to date, with research stating that over 100 years, SF6 has been 25,200 times more harmful than CO2. ABB’s alternative has a global warming potential of almost zero.

ViewAR is the world’s first Virtual Reality app for remote maintenance, while HiPerGuard is an industry-first medium voltage uninterruptible power supply that delivers 98 percent efficiency for data centers and mission-critical facilities.

ABB Ability is our digital solution to monitor and optimize energy consumption and CO2 footprint, allowing customers to make faster and better decisions based on data insights, reducing energy use by up to 30 percent.

What are the key clean technology technologies for 2023?

Long-term, we expect to see more focus on grid resilience, microgrids, battery energy storage systems (BESS), and clean power generation.

The grid was built for a steady supply of combustion-based energy, but solar and wind are variable. To improve energy security, we can use technology to make networks and power grids more reliable. It is not just about expanding capacity or replacing aging infrastructure. Technology and energy management can help smooth out the peaks and troughs and reduce the burden on the grid at peak times.

ABB, electrification

Image Credit: ABB

BESS helps customers to integrate renewables, stabilize the grid, keep the power on 24/7, and sell unwanted energy back to the network.

The industry needs smart grids to make cleaner energy work. Smart grids boost grid resilience, increase renewable energy integration, reduce costs, and enable universal access to clean electricity.

Grid resilience is critical as clean electricity fails if we cannot use it. Customers also use microgrid solutions to develop sustainable, resilient, and secure alternatives.

What key developments are needed to speed up global sustainability in several fields?

While technological innovations, as well as optimizing how energy is produced, distributed, stored and used by business and society, is part of the solution, none of these alone can enable and progress the shift to electrification with the necessary speed.

We have to change our mindsets, behaviors and policies as to how we think and operate as a global collective. We need governments and utilities to play their part and proactively drive the scale-up of modern infrastructure installations.

The up-front investment and mindset shifts required will present significant challenges, but we can overcome them to meet the growing demand for power while electrifying the world in a safe, smart and sustainable way.

Can you highlight any interesting points in ABB’s Energy Insights Survey Report?

Our recent Energy Insights Survey Report shows that businesses worldwide remain concerned about the impacts of energy security and prices, which could catalyze a range of environmental, social, and economic effects.

In the survey of 2,300 leaders from small and large businesses across a range of sectors, 92 percent of respondents feel that the continuing instability of energy is threatening their profitability and competitiveness. Energy costs and insecurity are having a significant impact on the workforce with decreased investment in employees. Business leaders are also concerned about the potential impacts of meeting their sustainability targets.

Rising energy costs and insecurity are forcing business leaders to rethink how they operate and where they invest in their businesses to grow and remain competitive.

The key impacts on businesses due to rising energy costs in the last year include lower profit margins (34 percent) and cuts to spending in some areas (34 percent), leading to a shift away from investment in R&D and other business growth initiatives. At the same time, businesses say they have reduced investment in their workforce in the last year because of increased energy costs and the need to implement mitigation measures. If energy challenges persist, this is expected to continue over the next three to five years.  

Respondents cite concerns that energy pricing and insecurity could delay progress on climate change, with meeting carbon reduction commitments currently considered less of a priority than reducing energy costs.

Over half (58 percent) of business leaders surveyed said the energy cost could delay achieving their sustainability and carbon reduction targets by anywhere from one to five years. While reducing energy costs is the top priority for 61 percent of companies, only 40 percent currently have reducing carbon emissions within their overall business priorities.

In short, businesses are telling us that they need to insulate themselves from energy prices and insecurity and are re-evaluating current and future spending plans. Taking action to mitigate this is a clear priority, but this does not have to be a catalyst for potential workforce or environmental impacts. Investing in smart and sustainable on-site renewables and energy efficiency technology means businesses can simultaneously cut costs and reduce their emissions. With the right approach, industry can achieve cost savings without sacrificing competitiveness, workforces, or the journey to decarbonization.

ABB Energy Insights Survey Report 2023 | Morten Wierod reflects on the findings

Video Credit: ABB Electrification/YouTube.com

What is ABB Electrification’s future in the industry?

ABB will continue to play a key role in the energy transition. As leaders in the field, we will continue collaborating with our customers, suppliers, partners, and startups to develop new technologies and solutions to secure clean electrification for future generations. From making the grid more stable, integrating renewables, supporting the broader adoption of electric vehicles, and providing reliable power supplies to remote communities, it Is our goal to ensure that society can deliver on its sustainability commitments and tackle the threat of global climate change.

What are the next steps for ABB Electrification?

ABB has a clear strategic plan in place to drive safe, smart and sustainable electrification across the world. We continue to invest heavily in Research and Development to innovate future solutions, and we work closely with the brightest minds in the industry, from startups through our Innovation Hub and annual Startup Challenge competitions to close collaborations with academics at universities around the world.

We are committed to tackling the challenges of the energy transition and building a talented and skilled workforce that can unlock the long-term potential of electrification.

Where can readers find more information?

Survey reporthttps://campaign.abb.com/energy-insights-report-2023

ABB Electrificationhttps://new.abb.com/about/our-businesses/electrification

About Morten Wierod

Morten Wierod is President of ABB Electrification Business Area (ELBA) at ABB, the Swiss-headquartered tech giant helping to tackle the world’s energy challenges. From reducing carbon emissions and energy use to keeping the lights on 24/7, ABB Electrification is electrifying the world safely, smartly, and sustainably.

Having graduated from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim with a degree in Electrical Engineering, Morten joined ABB in 1989 as an Area Sales Manager for Automation Products in Norway, his home country.

Since then, he has held several senior management positions in Norway and China. In 2011, he was appointed Managing Director of the Control Products business unit in ABB’s Low Voltage Products division, followed by Managing Director of Drives in the Robotics and Motion business areas in 2015 and President of ELBA in 2021. Morten became a member of ABB’s Executive Committee in April 2019.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of AZoM.com Limited (T/A) AZoNetwork, the owner and operator of this website. This disclaimer forms part of the Terms and Conditions of use of this website.

Laura Thomson

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Laura Thomson

Laura Thomson graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with an English and Sociology degree. During her studies, Laura worked as a Proofreader and went on to do this full-time until moving on to work as a Website Editor for a leading analytics and media company. In her spare time, Laura enjoys reading a range of books and writing historical fiction. She also loves to see new places in the world and spends many weekends walking with her Cocker Spaniel Millie.

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