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12 April, 2021

A roadmap to net zero

16 October, 2020

The next few years will be make-or-break for how global leaders respond to climate change. But businesses have a big part to play and should capitalise on their energy-saving initiatives and investments, argues ABB’s UK managing director, David Hughes. 

If there was a “Net Zero Express” train hurtling around the country, it would be doing good business. On board are many companies and organisations helping us to grapple with the net-zero challenges.

Climate Assembly UK is an initiative that has chosen 108 members of the public to represent the country’s views. Last month, it published 50 recommendations to achieve the UK's 2050 net-zero target, including an end to sales of fossil-fuelled cars within 15 years, scaling up wind and solar power capacity rapidly, curbing growth in air passenger numbers, using carbon labelling on consumer products, and encouraging people to eat less meat and dairy.

Meanwhile, Climate Action 100+, an initiative supported by 518 institutional investors, has written to 161 fossil fuel, mining, transport and energy-intensive companies, setting out 30 climate measures and targets against which they will be analysed.

There is a lot going on, but don’t lose sight of the great investments in energy-saving technologies that have been made already. Stay focused on the basics, such as:

•  Keeping an eye on the legislation  If you are confused by the plethora of legislation, regulations, directives and standards, from ESOS to SECR, you are not alone. Seek help soon, so that you are not penalised either through fines or wasting energy that could impact your bottom line. 

•   Investing in young engineers  Energy demand is set to grow by 61% by 2040 compared with 2016, with an accompanying rise in emissions. Yet many young engineers appear to have little or no real understanding of VSD (variable-speed drive) technology. This suggests that many companies could be missing out on the substantial energy-saving benefits of VSDs. Younger engineers are no doubt keen to save energy and cut pollution, but are they aware, for example, that the installed base of ABB drives saved 515TWh in 2017 – equivalent to the annual consumption of more that 130 million EU homes.

•   Holding on to best practice   VSDs and high-efficiency electric motors remain the most efficient pairing, not only for reducing energy consumption in most motor-driven applications, but affecting other aspects of productivity. In the water industry, for example, VSDs impact massively on the demands for resilient outcomes by improving electrical system efficiency, mitigating harmonics, and preventing leakage. The UK’s water distribution networks continue to lose around 3,300 megalitres of water per day. Every lost litre of water needs to be replaced, which means that more water must be cleaned and filtered and then repumped through the supply network. According to EU estimates, pumps are the biggest industrial energy user, consuming some 160TWh of electric power and accounting for 79 million tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. 

•  Believing in maintenance   As well as being time-consuming, maintenance activities also use energy in diagnosis, repair, handling and transport. With functions such as soft-start, VSDs can reduce current and voltage spikes, helping to protect cables and motors from damage. VSDs can also monitor processes, providing performance and efficiency data that can be transmitted via the cloud to remote sites. This facilitates predictive maintenance, while cutting down on physical visits to sites. 

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