Energy Efficiency, Smart Buildings, and Why ABB Wants To Do More

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While operators recognize the need to invest more in energy efficiency, only a third are planning to make improvements, according to recent research*. Ben Fuller, US Sales Leader for ABB Building Solutions, explains why governments, energy-focused agencies and technology providers need to do more to promote the economic and environmental value of energy efficient technologies and how to implement them.


Energy efficiency investment is increasing among industrial companies in the US; however, cost is both the biggest driver and the biggest obstacle to the adoption of innovative technologies that reduce energy consumption and emissions. Operators are also struggling to find the right advice, from governments or third parties, on how to make the improvements needed to achieve substantial dollar savings, while also improving the quality of life for citizens in surrounding communities.      

The research, commissioned by ABB, carried out by Sapio Research and drawing on the views of business leaders in manufacturing, transportation, energy and heavy and light industries across 13 countries, including the US, was prompted by recent findings* on the importance of energy efficient technology to the green transition. 

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says energy efficiency will drive more than 40 percent of emission reductions over the next 20 years. Independent research points out that if the world’s 300 million industrial motor-driven systems were replaced with optimized, high-efficiency equipment, global electricity consumption could be reduced by 10 percent*. 

Cost: the biggest driver and the biggest obstacle to investment 

Industrial operators are clearly aware of the importance of accelerating investment in energy efficiency. The overwhelming majority (97 percent) of companies that took part in the survey are either already investing in or planning to invest in improving the efficiency of their energy usage. More than half (54 percent) of industrial operators in the US plan to focus this investment on facilities, including building management, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), and lighting.  Over a third (34 percent) of companies intend to invest in improving the efficiency of their production and operations. 

However, respondents were conflicted too; 70 percent of US operators said that the cost savings were the main reason to invest in making their energy use more efficient, but 54 percent admitted the cost of implementation was also their biggest barrier to improving energy efficiency. Despite the global backdrop, only a third (34 percent) of US operators plan to make energy efficiency improvements in the next year. 

Image courtesy ABB

The survey identified one further crucial reason for some operators’ reticence: they don’t know where to start. More than half of US respondents (56 percent) said that they had some access to support from government and third parties, but that they could do with more information. This suggests that governments, energy-focused agencies and technology providers need to do more to explain the economic and environmental value of energy efficient technologies and how to implement them.

A collaborative approach 

This information deficit is an issue that ABB is tackling on two fronts. Through its ‘Mission to Zero’ initiative, the company is implementing energy efficiency and energy storage technologies in its own facilities, providing a blueprint for customers to follow. In addition, ABB is working collaboratively with its customers to identify and implement the right solutions to reduce costs and emissions in their facilities, with a knock-on impact on quality of life for both employees and surrounding communities.      

For example, the new Ability™ Energy and Asset Manager combines sensors and analytics software to provide insights on energy consumption and the performance of multiple systems in a factory or plant. 

In addition, energy optimization technologies, such as ABB’s Cylon® Smart Building Solutions, can help operators of commercial and residential buildings control a host of operations from lighting and shutter control to heating, ventilation and security. 

By responding to the data collected by numerous sensors, these systems can deliver energy savings of as much as 30 percent when compared to conventional non-automated solutions. ABB’s Cylon® Smart Building Solutions are also scalable, meaning automation and energy control technologies can easily be implemented in buildings of any size. 

At ABB, we believe that, by far, the biggest impact we can have, is through the development and deployment of innovative technologies that reduce energy consumption and emissions for the three largest contributors to emissions globally – transport, industry and buildings. Reducing energy use across these sectors will help to improve the quality of life for citizens around the world. We want to work together with our customers to find and implement the right solutions to meet their carbon emissions reduction targets in support of global targets, which we all have a part to play in achieving. For us, we believe that real change can only come at the intersection of innovation and collaboration; the “Power of Together.” 

ABB outlines steps to add energy efficiency to smart buildings
Image courtesy ABB

A positive example of collaboration in action is at the University of California Irvine’s (UCI) Anteater Pavilion, a 65,000 square foot facility, which includes 15 smart classrooms, auditoriums and two large lecture halls. ABB’s accredited solutions supported the facility to achieve a LEED Platinum certification as part of the government’s Better Building Challenge. The Cylon® Smart Energy Solution included a unique HVAC system consisting of four custom air handling units, as well as an occupancy-based temperature setpoint reset and a BACnet® interface with the building’s lighting control system. This project formed an important part of UCI’s goal to become 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020.      

According to the IEA’s 2021 Energy Efficiency report, annual investment in energy efficiency worldwide needs to triple by 2030 to meet the roadmap of achieving Net Zero by 2050. While positive steps are being made by many operators in the US, all stakeholders across the industry and globally, must continue to work together and put the effort in to creating an ever-deeper understanding of how high-efficiency solutions can benefit both the bottom line and the environment, and provide practical examples and support, in order to create a cleaner, safer industrial sector that enables a low-carbon society. 

To find out more about ABB’s approach and solutions for improving energy efficiency in your business, visit this link:  

This article is supported by ABB. 

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