ABB says high-efficiency motors can help tackle climate change

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

Utilizing high-efficiency motor and drive technology saves energy in refrigeration systems typically found deep in the center of food and beverage facilities. Pic: ABB
Utilizing high-efficiency motor and drive technology saves energy in refrigeration systems typically found deep in the center of food and beverage facilities. Pic: ABB

Related tags Sustainability Greenhouse gas

In a new whitepaper, ABB says there is potential for significant energy efficiency improvements in industry and infrastructure through the latest and most highly-efficient motors and variable speed drives.

ABB said it is calling on governments and the industry to accelerate the adoption of the technology to help combat climate change.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), industry accounts for 37% of global energy use and 30% of global energy is consumed in buildings.

While mostly hidden from public view, electric motors – and the variable-speed drives that optimize their operation – are embedded in almost every built environment. They power applications from industrial pumps, fans and conveyors for manufacturing and propulsion systems for transportation to compressors for electrical appliances and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems in buildings.

ABB said motor and drive technologies have seen rapid advancement in the past decade, with today’s designs delivering energy efficiencies. However, it said, many industrial electric motor-driven systems in operation today – in the region of 300m globally – are inefficient or consume much more power than required, resulting in energy wastage.

Independent research estimates if these systems were replaced with optimized, high-efficiency equipment, the gains to be realized could reduce global electricity consumption by up to 10%. In turn, this would account for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions needed to meet the 2040 climate goals established by the Paris Agreement.

“Industrial energy efficiency, more than any other challenge, has the single greatest capacity for combating the climate emergency.  It is essentially the world’s invisible climate solution,”​ said Morten Wierod, president ABB Motion.

“For ABB, sustainability is a key part of our company Purpose and of the value that we create for all of our stakeholders. By far the biggest impact we can have in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is through our leading technologies, which reduce energy use in industry, buildings and transport.

While steps have been taken to support the uptake of electric vehicles and renewable energy sources, ABB said it is time to do the same for an industrial technology to deliver greater benefits for the environment and the global economy.

“The importance of transitioning industries and infrastructure to these highly energy efficient drives and motors to play their part in a more sustainable society cannot be overstated,”​ Wierod said.

“With 45% of the world’s electricity used to power electric motors in buildings and industrial applications, investment in upgrading them will yield outsized rewards in terms of efficiency.”

Regulatory policies are among the main drivers of industrial investment in energy efficiency globally. While the EU will be implementing its Ecodesign Regulation (EU 2019/1781) this year, which sets out new requirements for an expanding range of energy efficient motors, many countries have yet to take action.

To take advantage of the opportunities afforded by energy-efficient drives and motors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ABB said all stakeholders have a critical role to play.

The company said public decision makers and government regulators need to incentivize their rapid adoption, and businesses, cities, and countries need to be aware of both the cost savings and environmental advantages and be willing to make the investment. It also said investors need to reallocate capital towards companies better prepared to address the climate risk.

“While our role at ABB is to always provide the most efficient technologies, products and services to our customers, and continue to innovate for ever greater efficiency, that in itself is not enough. All stakeholders need to work together to bring about a holistic transformation in how we use energy. By acting and innovating together, we can keep critical services up and running while saving energy and combating climate change,”​ Wierod said.

ABB’s white paper “Achieving the Paris Agreement: The Vital Role of High-Efficiency Motors and Drives in Reducing Energy Consumption” can be downloaded here​.