Power quality

Why power quality matters

The quality of electrical power is business-critical. As the technology advances, electrical tools and machinery are becoming more sensitive to network disturbances (eg, voltage sags), leading to expensive downtimes and production losses which in turn affects productivity and business revenues.

Unoptimized power supplies affected by harmonics, unbalance and low power factor will lead to higher electricity bills, overloading and rapid aging of the electrical infrastructure, resulting in increased OPEX and equipment maintenance.

ABB offers a wide portfolio of power quality solutions that maximize operational continuity and ensure a smooth and continuous power supply in different industrial applications.

Lack of a continuous power supply constitutes up to 90 percent of the poor power quality costs incurred by industries in the European Union. Voltage sags and short interruptions are the most expensive factors.

Key values

Several power quality issues impact the operation and efficiency of electrical equipment:

  • Sags/swells
  • Harmonic distortion and inter harmonics
  • Micro cuts and outages
  • Spikes/transients 
  • Undervoltage/overvoltage
  • Voltage imbalance (unbalance)
  • Voltage fluctuations (flickering)
  • Under/over frequency
  • Poor power factor

Downtime cost for businesses

A 2018 survey found that one in four companies experience a power outage at least once a month in the US and power outages are becoming the, unfortunate, norm for businesses.

Data centers: studies show that the average cost of a data center outage has grown to $8,851 per minute

Manufacturing: a recent survey found that more than a quarter of manufacturing businesses experienced an outage at least once a month in 2017, with 58 percent reporting an outage lasting longer than an hour. For large manufacturing companies a single hour of downtime tops the $5 million mark

Retail: a power outage in a supermarket could see hundreds of thousands of dollars lost by perishable goods being spoiled by lack of refrigeration. For instance, a supermarket in Pennsylvania lost power for more than a day in February 2019. The owner estimated losses to be up to $30,000 in merchandise; for large retailers, that cost is even higher, reaching upwards of $5 million.

Source: Bloom Energy 2019

Market trends

Globally, power systems are experiencing a transition toward decarbonization of electricity production through the large-scale deployment of central and distributed energy resources (DERs) based on renewables, which are gradually replacing conventional thermal plants.

The connection of DERs to the power system is mainly achieved using power electronic converters that can have both a positive or negative effect on power quality, depending on the type of disturbances evaluated and the control strategies applied.

In the future, power quality is expected to be significantly affected by this shift towards carbon-free power generation. Other trends threaten to degrade power quality further: the integration of many power electronics devices, the use of power cables at all levels of voltage, the increasing amount of fluctuating energy production and, finally, a reduced overall electrical systems stability.

Portfolio overview

How to save money

Use cases for industrial and commercial applications