Sustainable progress

Sustainable progress

On Earth Day, ABB presents some of its newest technologies and solutions that contribute to a low-carbon society.

ABB has a long history of sustainable and responsible business practices. In 2020 ABB exceeded many of its sustainability targets, including reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 58 percent compared with a 2013 baseline. With the introduction of the company’s 2030 sustainability strategy, even more ambitious targets have been set, focusing on enabling a low-carbon society by reducing emissions, preserving resources, and promoting social progress. ABB’s 2030 low-carbon commitment includes achieving carbon neutrality in its own operations and helping its customers reduce their CO2 emissions. Through its sustainability targets, ABB contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, of which ABB has always been a strong advocate.

“With our leading technologies we can make a strong contribution to a low-carbon society,” explains Theodor Swedjemark, ABB’s Chief Communications and Sustainability Officer. “To help enable a low-carbon society, we will work with our suppliers to reduce their emissions, become carbon neutral in our own operations and enable our customers to reduce their CO2 emissions by 100 megatons per year, which is equivalent to the annual emissions of 30 million combustion cars.”

A full overview of ABB’s impact on the environment and its contributions to sustainable development can be found in the company’s most recent Sustainability Report. On Earth Day 2021, we highlight a few of the more recent examples of the continual progress ABB is making in tackling climate change.

Flicking the switch on SF6

Electricity is growing twice as fast as other energy sources worldwide. By 2030, it is expected to account for over 20 percent of the global energy consumption. Through its Electrification business, ABB offers a full range of low- and medium-voltage products and solutions, along with pre-engineered packaged services and tailored solutions for intelligent protection and connection.

Embedding sustainability into the distribution of energy is a crucial step. For over 50 years gas insulated switchgear (GIS) has used sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) as insulation gas, due to its excellent insulation and arc quenching qualities. But SF6 is the world’s most potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 23,500 times that of CO2 and an atmospheric lifetime of 3,200 years. As the world accelerates its electrification, more and more SF6 continues to leak into the atmosphere and it is accumulating. Since 2002 the SF6 concentration in the atmosphere has doubled!

The good news – starting in 2015, ABB launched proven SF6-free gas insulated switchgear to empower utilities, industries and infrastructure customers to make greener choices in a world of evolving regulations and standards. More than 5,000 SF6-free switchgear units have been installed worldwide. With the ecoGIS portfolio, ABB is helping customers make the transition to SF6-free technology and significantly reduce the carbon footprint in energy distribution.

ABB is continually developing solutions to make it easy for customers to make greener choices. In 2020 it launched PrimeGear™ ZX0, the world’s first switchgear that allows customers to switch to a green insulation gas at any point in the switchgear’s lifetime.

ABB developed SF6-free technology and because of its benefit to society, the basic patents have been opened to be used by anybody for free, thus enabling more switchgear manufacturers to use this technology.

Paving the way for sustainable mobility – electric vehicles

Global electric vehicles sales reached around 3.24 million in 2020 and it is predicted that by 2025, 30 percent of all new vehicles will be electric. In Europe, nearly 1.4 million battery electric and plug-in-hybrid electric vehicles were registered during 2020, 137 percent more than in 2019.

Building on its global e-mobility experience, with more than 400,000 electric vehicle chargers installed across more than 85 markets, ABB has today launched the newest generation of its market leading Terra High Power chargers for the evolving and rapidly growing electric vehicle market. Ideal for highway corridor charging and EV fleets, ABB has further evolved the Terra HP charger to offer a premium experience for consumers and a variety of customization options for charging operators. Delivering a high-power output at low noise levels, the latest generation Terra HP features a 5.3-meter retractable charge cable for convenient reach to vehicle inlets. In addition, the solution is fully future proof thanks to remote software upgrades and the capability to charge today's and tomorrow's electric vehicles with the wide output voltage range of 150 – 920 VDC. The compact design of the charge post optimizes space around the vehicle and maximizes flexibility in site layout.

ABB’s newest generation of its market leading Terra High Power chargers.
ABB’s newest generation of its market leading Terra High Power chargers.

Charger for electric vehicles in China

As China is currently the largest carbon emitter, the development of e-mobility is imperative. China’s carbon-neutral goal unlocks huge growth potential for the related industries. There are 4.49 million battery electric vehicles on the road in China by the end of March 2021 and China plans to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. In this ecosystem, ABB solutions, as necessary supporting infrastructure for the development of electric vehicles, play a critical role, building a bridge between power grid, renewable energy, and charging stations.

On Earth Day 2021, ABB officially launched its Compact Charger in China, which integrates fast chargers and a compact secondary substation. This solution innovatively combines ABB’s leading electrical distribution and charging technologies, and reduces 80 percent of land construction and on-site commissioning through its prefabricated cables and other accessories, which will allow customers to build charging stations quickly and support China to create sustainable transport for the future.

Protecting the environment from gas leaks

Pipelines often cross inaccessible terrain to supply industrial and domestic gas. Operators of these networks must ensure the safety, integrity and reliability of their pipelines. Several countries are establishing regulations that direct gas pipeline operators to use advanced leak detection technologies for this purpose, e.g. the USA 2020 PIPES Act that was signed into law at the end of 2020. But accurate detection of odorless and invisible gas leaks can be challenging and expensive. ABB’s latest addition to its ABB Ability™ Mobile Gas Leak Detection System, HoverGuard™, finds leaks faster and more reliably than ever before. It builds on the successful vehicle-based MobileGuard™ and hand-held MicroGuard™ solutions through weight and size reduction that enables the analyzer to be mounted on suitable commercial unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to yield the most sensitive, fast, rugged, and cloud-connected solution to detect, map, locate and quantify natural gas leak emissions while flying.

This sensitivity and speed enables HoverGuard to detect leaks while flying at altitudes of 40 meters or higher, and at speeds greater than 88 km/h. It can cover 10-15 times more land area per minute by operating on low-cost commercial UAVs.

By adding a second laser to allow sensitive measurements of carbon dioxide, the resulting multi-gas solution represents the first UAV-based system to quantify the three most important greenhouse gases – methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor concentrations – while flying. This application, called GHG flux measurements, is a huge advance over stationary monitoring stations and towers.

ABB’s latest addition to its ABB Ability™ Mobile Gas Leak Detection System, HoverGuard™.
ABB’s latest addition to its ABB Ability™ Mobile Gas Leak Detection System, HoverGuard™.

High-efficiency motors making a difference

An estimated 45 percent of the world’s electricity is used to power electric motors in buildings and industrial applications. Therefore, motors are at the forefront of global efforts to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. In 2020, ABB launched the ultra-premium ABB IE5 SynRM, a synchronous reluctance motor that offers the performance advantages of permanent magnet technology with the simplicity and service-friendliness of an induction motor. If 80 percent of today’s installed industrial motors were replaced by IE5 units, the estimated energy saving would equate to the power consumption of Poland. In 2021 ABB’s Motion business also launched the Energy Efficiency Movement as a multi-year initiative to raise awareness of the tremendous impact that high efficiency motors and drive technology can have on climate change.

ABB launched the ultra-premium ABB IE5 SynRM in 2020.
ABB launched the ultra-premium ABB IE5 SynRM in 2020.


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