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With our 2030 sustainability strategy, we are actively enabling a low-carbon society as well as working with our customers and suppliers to implement sustainable practices across our value chain and the lifecycle of our products and solutions, writes ABB South Africa’s Graham Abrahams

Achieving net zero emissions by 2050 will require a complete transformation of the energy landscape. The world wants an energy revolution. They want a quick transition to a smarter, brighter, more sustainable future. ABB understands the urgency of this need. However, we also know that the transition cannot happen overnight.

Real progress will take a balanced approach with a journey mindset: Strategic investments scaled over time to reduce carbon emissions, waste, and cost. The transition needs partners who enable the pathway with ROI, today and in the future. Partners who offer real solutions today and are willing to invest in needed innovation for our low carbon future.

As your partner in a low carbon future, ABB can bring balance to this equation by enabling safe, smart, and sustainable investment in our low carbon future. By combining the full power of our integrated automation, electrification, and digitalisation solutions, we will help you meet your commitments and maximise the value of your operational investments, while reducing carbon emissions, waste, and cost throughout the energy transition journey.

Not only ABB as a company, but also our customers, want to contribute to a low carbon society. Yet this requires a willingness to relinquish our collective dependency on the forms of energy that result in the slow poisoning of the planet.

There are five key steps to achieving carbon neutrality. Firstly, to deploy digital solutions for smart green buildings and energy management such as monitoring, control, and optimisation, which is the core of the Mission to Zero offering.

Next is to increase energy efficiency by utilising building management systems and installing new, highly efficient motors and drives, for example. Maximising electrification is also important. For example, heat pumps and having an EV charging infrastructure.

The installation of EVE, from photovoltaic technology and wind turbines, through to battery energy storage systems and thermal energy storage is also key.

Finally, procuring renewable energy from the grid and offsetting any remaining emissions.

In summary, Smartification, Digitalisation, and Electrification of everything, coupled with energy efficiency and renewable electricity, is proving to be the solution for most carbon emissions. Nevertheless, some hurdles still exist.

From a technology standpoint, excessive consumption of electricity by inefficient equipment (for example, legacy HVAC systems, drives, pumps, etc.) or simply due to poor asset or occupancy management, result in vast energy wastage. This presents a huge potential for smart building energy management systems, coupled with highly efficient variable speed drives, purposely built and configured for the application.

Moreover, sheer electrification of heat in buildings with improper insulation can be inefficient. This creates a need for carbon-free high-temperature heating from bio-oil, biogas or hydrogen. From a business model standpoint, few building owners can afford deep energy efficiency retrofits.

This is creating a need for OPEX-based financing models like leasing or X-as-a-service. From a go-to-market standpoint, building owners expect ‘one-stop shop’ solutions. This creates a need for integrated end-to-end solutions and a necessity for such a solution as Mission to Zero to be adopted.

Products and solutions

As per our Technology Blueprint, a typical smart building will use interconnected technologies to improve comfort and performance across energy management, water use, air conditioning, access, automation, lighting, remote monitoring, and communication networks.

Thanks to ABB’s solution areas within the ABB Ability Building Ecosystem, building operators and facility managers can have a digital control of all these elements, and smart buildings will capture their inherent opportunities to become more environmentally friendly—from substantially contributing to carbon reduction targets through efficiency gains in heating and cooling equipment and in the building itself.

The ABB digital solutions enable constant surveillance and optimum control of energy production, consumption, and storage. Largely autonomous, this learning system calculates the optimum energy flow based on predictive data and compensates for deviations in real time.

In a Mission to Zero site, these technologies are combined for a holistic approach that can be easily scaled according to the requirements of the building.

The digitalisation of buildings through connected technologies and building automation has also a key role to play in helping to manage grid resiliency and reliability and to reduce energy costs while increasing energy efficiency.

Moreover, it is an important step towards the energy transition, as it enables the building to provide value-adding services towards the modern energy grid and thus supports the shift from ‘consumer’ to ‘prosumer’—facilitating concepts such as virtual power plants and maximising the value of Distributed Energy Resources (photovoltaic, batteries) on a broader scale.

Within that context, the programme strongly leverages also on the ABB Ability™ Energy and Asset Manager for monitoring, optimisation, and maintenance prediction using big data and artificial intelligence.

The typical solution scope for a Mission to Zero project includes:

  • Distributed Energy Resources: Such as on-site photovoltaic technology, EV-chargers, energy storage, motors a drives, power supply, and protection, as well as digital solutions for energy management, including monitoring, control, and multipurpose optimisation.
  • Building automation and HVAC controls: Such as digital integration platforms, building automation and control, HVAC control and optimisation, space management and wellness and productivity, lighting and shading control, and presence detection.

Although borne from the Electrification Business Area, Mission to Zero spans the entire organisation and many product and solution sets, combined with third party technology via our partnership ecosystem.

These include:

  • Building control and automation through ABB Ability™ Building Ecosystem, including HVAC, lighting, and shading control and automation via i-bus® KNX and ABB Cylon® BACnet® solutions.
  • Metering, monitoring, and optimisation of electrical power and energy flows through ABB Ability™ Energy and Asset Manager platform.
  • Power distribution with ABB System pro E power or MNS® 3.0 low-voltage switchgear, including Emax 2 air circuit breakers or NEO Gear low-voltage switchgear solutions.
  • Electric vehicle charging infrastructure (EVCI) for fast (DC) and slow (AC) charging applications.
  • Highly efficient and smart electrical motors and variable speed drives.
  • Battery energy storage systems (BESS) for maximising PV self-consumption and peak-shaving.
  • Photovoltaic systems for local green energy generation (provided by partners).

With our 2030 sustainability strategy, we are actively enabling a low-carbon society as well as working with our customers and suppliers to implement sustainable practices across our value chain and the lifecycle of our products and solutions.

We are equally committed to driving social progress, along with our suppliers and in our communities.

A key part of our 2030 sustainability strategy is to support our customers and suppliers to reduce their emissions and achieve carbon neutrality in our own operations. Our greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets have been validated by the Science Based Targets initiative as being in line with the 1.5°C scenario of the Paris Agreement.

To ensure that we are focused on achieving our goals, our sustainability targets are integrated into our decision-making processes, plus we have accountabilities and incentive plans in place to drive action.

Graham Abrahams is the Senior Vice-President, Electrification Products Division, ABB South Africa.

By Editor