How does ABB look at sustainability? How do you build sustainability into everyday business? What are the focus areas for India?
We celebrated 125 years at ABB in 2016 and over the company’s life sustainability has developed as the DNA of the company. Especially considering that ABB has strong base in countries like Sweden and Switzerland that are known for their sustainability culture and ethos. This has developed into our core belief and ingrained in our value system. This culture now pervades throughout the value chain of our stakeholders. Energy efficiency and innovating technology to decouple growth from environment impact is central to our sustainability.
Given that our equipment generally has a long-life cycle, energy efficiency and sustainability becomes the bedrock of all that we do. Our prime focus is on advancing technology with energy efficiency both on the conventional energy and renewables. It is about running the world without consuming the earth – products and solutions which makes the generation, transmission, distribution and usage of energy in different forms more environment friendly for utilities, industries, infrastructure and transportation sectors. Hence it is an integral part of our operations and solutions. We also have a significant influence on the land where we operate. Both transmission and distribution require significant amounts of land. Through R&D ABB pioneered the concept of high voltage direct current transmission
(HVDC) which requires 60 percent less land corridor, reduces losses and hence permits us to use technology to impact both in scale and depth in achieving our goals. Our value system looks at sustainability in the long run and our programmes span across environmental, economic and social spheres and across our value chain of production, delivery and consumption.
We build our long-term goals and our short-term goals link into them. We are a technology company, for example the onset of solar energy with solar costs dropping significantly and the reliability being high, technology is a means of tackling pressures on the finances. Energy is where we are big and automation is our strength. Different forms of energy especially renewable has created an abundance but the challenge for technology is in usability, tackling intermittencies and making it available during requirement. ABB has the highest market share in various technologies to manage the volatility of renewable like in solar inverters. We have had the first mover advantage in in products and technologies to cater to the transition from thermal to solar. Our solar inverter factory set up way back in 2012 in Bengaluru now caters to around 40% of the market. In wind, too, we have a large contribution through our wind power generators, which is the heart of the turbine. Most of the OEMs use the ABB technology. Two focus areas exist – water and energy efficiency.
In India we use up to 30% more energy to produce one unit of anything across sectors as compared to best global benchmarks. The only way to reduce usage is through reducing wastage. Our approach to reducing energy usage is through focusing on automation, usage of renewable wherever applicable, making product elements more environment friendly and the next level of automation through digitalization. Automation helps by managing energy usage depending on need. Conversion from either energy intensive uses to lower intensive uses or through conversion from fossil fuel to renewables. Our sustainability action spans sectors across utilities, infrastructure and transport. In Kochi metro we have used environment friendly aluminium-zinc for power equipment making it lighter and more efficient and oil-free vacuum interrupters for switchgears. Our building automation solutions make Delhi’s T3 terminal 30% more efficient as compared to similar facilities or the Raigarh- Pugalur HVDC transmission line, which will bring down losses, integrates renewnables and decrease land requirement our efforts have helped build a sustainable planet.
How do you see the future of renewables in India? How is ABB helping in building sustainability?
Localized power generation or distributed generation models like microgrids powered by renewables will make a huge difference in improving energy access. Communities in far flung areas will be greatly benefitted. Solar or wind sources can be used to produce electricity and battery back-ups support when there is lower generation. ABB’s global technology centre for microgrids is based in India and we have a range of microgrid solutions including plug and play ones depending on installation requirements. We are now seeing solar power being produced at the lowest cost. This can help both communities and industries to take advantage of smart technology.
At our biggest manufacturing location in Vadodara, we are setting up a solar microgrid to demonstrate the power of the technology and our capability in localized generation. We have solar facilities at all our leading manufacturing locations. Also, we strongly believe in and contributing to sustainable societies. Through our CSR initiatives, we are building microgrids in two villages in Maharashtra as demonstration projects. This provides significant benefits to households and villages. We have also tied up with IIT Madras for a joint community micro grid and also fund research on batteries which also forms a core part of our supplier technology.
Another area where ABB is focussing its attention is the EV (electric vehicle) charging segment. ABB has developed fast chargers and has the largest global network of fast chargers for cars. We are working with various OEMs and government agencies to bring our global expertise to India. We have also developed concepts like depot and opportunity flash charging for buses which uses bus-stops to charge in 15 seconds. In Jabalpur, we have participated in a project for replacing diesel powered rickshaws with e-rickshaws by providing solar inverters for charging stations. The ABB inverters come with Wi-Fi connectivity for remote monitoring and centralized billing provisions in the future. The aim of the project is to replace 5000 odd rickshaws in Jabalpur to e-rickshaws. For these projects to be replicated across the country encouragement is required from both the government as well as the policy makers.
Sustainability comes naturally to ABB. How does ABB look at CSR?
CSR is as important for us as sustainability. We operate through our social pillars and operate in the areas of education, skill development, environment, healthcare and support the differently abled. We run 23 programmes across the country from our CSR funds. We also believe in institutional partners who are in the field of community engagement and who have been doing it professionally for years.
One of the key programmes that we support is Akshayapatra. We like their objective of providing nutritious food to school-going children. Given that malnutrition is rampant in rural India and it is difficult to learn on an empty stomach, Akshayapatra does a commendable job in providing measured nutritious food which encourages children to go to school and continue education. Our value systems have matched, and we are also looking at exploring options automation solutions to improve systems of their kitchens and other processes.
We have factories across India and looking at a holistic rural development model to cater to the communities in and around our operations. We have seen significant improvements where villages are adopted. In Nelamangala, Bengaluru, we have initiated our community engagement through our first intervention of improving accessibility to the villages with rebuilding roads… We have also provided solar street lights. Our next steps are to take on impactful projects based on community interaction and needs assessment like providing drinking water, skills development, primary health care etc.
At our training institute in Vadodara we run a two-year programme that provides ITI diploma to the participants. We absorb the trained manpower where we can, and the rest make careers in the general job market. Skill development is another core area of our sustainable community development program that we wish to contribute in line with the Govt. of India’s skills mission We are also focusing on the differently abled and looking to assist them with life-long employable skills and access to mobility solutions for their treatment.
We look forward to moving ahead on the path to sustainability and CSR goals taking a step at a time and to support the country in achieving its overall sustainable development agenda.
In conversation with Mr. Sanjeev Sharma, Managing Director, ABB India. (Original Post)