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Decouple correlation between economic growth and energy usage

On his recent trip to Australia, ABB's head of Discrete Automation and Motion, Ulrich Spiesshofer took time out of his schedule to talk to PACE about advances in energy efficiency.

The Discrete Automation and Motion business is worth about US$10 billion, and employs 30,000 people around the world.

According to Spiesshofer, ABB has had energy efficiency as one of its core tenets for many years, and it will continue to be an issue of growing importance for years to come. With about a billion US dollars spent on R&D a year, ABB devotes a large portion of that investment into energy efficient solutions.

"We have a simple paradigm to resolve: to decouple the correlation between economic growth and energy usage," Speisshoffer said. "We want to enable the industry to grow economically while still reducing energy use."

There are two main ways to resolve the problem: by implementing energy-efficient technologies, and by reducing the emissions required to generate energy for use. Industrial players who manage to achieve both will do better, while doing good.

"Doing better means having better economic results because energy costs today in some industries take a very high share of the total energy bill from total revenue," Spiesshofer said. "For example, aluminium companies have energy costs making up about five percent of revenue. So this is a very important, big cost for the players in the process industry."

ABB provides both energy-efficient solutions (including drives, motors and robots) and renewable sources of energy generation, such as solar and wind.

"Industrial motors consume 25 percent of the electricity generated globally, this is one of the biggest energy users in the world," Spiesshofer told PACE. "Having energy-efficient industrial motors helps to reduce the consumption."

High-efficiency standalone motors allow up to 10 percent savings in energy consumption, while variable speed drives, in which ABB is also a leader, allows energy savings of up to 40 percent.

"If all existing installed motor drive systems in industry were optimised using technology available today, the world could save the equivalent of the output of 250 nuclear power reactors," Spiesshofer said.

ABB also plays within the industrial robotics and automation space, which not only enable safer operations, less energy required for operations, but also offer machine precision which can enable industrial players to reduce material waste, and thus indirect energy usage.

While savings can be made within industry, Spiesshofer says a quarter of all primary energy is lost between generation and transmission and usage of electricity. ABB's solutions cover not just the industrial usage end of the energy supply chain, rather the entirety of the value chain, from primary energy down.

ABB's process automation solutions, for example, help improve well efficiency in the oil fields. Its efficient propulsion solutions and pumps are also used in oil transporters and pipes to improve the efficiency of moving crude oil products.

The firm provides automation, control and auxiliary systems to power plants to improve energy yield from fuel combustion, while its technology reduces power line losses and contribute to higher substation efficiency.

"Basically, ABB is a partner for players in industry along the entire energy chain, from primary energy to transport, generation, electrical transmission, industrial processes, and discreet automation and discreet industries, we cover the whole range," Spiesshofer said.

While many companies within the process industry hesitate to make the initial investment in such equipment, Spiesshofer says most industrial players realise an ROI of two years or less, be it for more efficient motors, test rigs, auxiliary systems, or robots.

"We need to break the trend of energy consumption," Spiesshofer said. "Only with a smart combination between energy efficient solutions and renewable, CO2 friendly power generation will we get close to the required global emission reductions."

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