Welcome to this first edition of Perspectives – a collection of insights, opinions and ideas from technology and business leaders across our industries and beyond.
Let’s start by recognizing that we are living through extraordinary and exciting times.
The 2020’s will go down in history, as an unprecedented social and economic global challenge and a time of human invention, innovation and societal progress. The current crisis has touched almost every human and organizational structure on our planet, but we have learned to collaborate more. It has rocked us on all levels, socially, environmentally and economically. It has shifted us into a ‘new norm’ requiring rapid adaption and adoption of digital technologies and processes, setting new ways of living and doing business across sectors and geographies.
Before the word ‘COVID-19’ became part of our everyday vocabulary, global forces were shaping – and continue to shape – our planet. Climate change action and decarbonization are forces for good. And if any good stems from the pandemic, it will be as a result of a more urgent call for real action on decarbonization.
Despite the pandemic, the world’s population will continue to grow. The World Bank forecasts that we will be sharing our planet with two billion more people by 2050. Simultaneously, living standards and the rise of the newly connected ‘prosumer’ are driving up global demand for energy. The IEA forecasts electricity demand to grow to at least twice the rate of primary energy demand by 2040, up from 19% in 2018 to 34% in the Sustainable Development Scenario.
As technology and market leader, we can and must make a difference by collaborating across stakeholders, innovating with customers and partners, and engaging with policy makers to adapt and adopt regulations that enable deployment of technology and business models supporting secure, sustainable and scalable energy infrastructure such as power grids.
Already back in 1954, ABB introduced HVDC (High Voltage Direct Current) – a technology that is changing the energy world. Today, HVDC is the technology of choice for integrating large-scale renewables, connecting offshore wind farms, building interconnectors and efficiently and reliably transmitting clean energy across vast distances to hundreds of millions of consumers around the world. Continuous innovations have helped keep our pioneering and digital technology heritage alive and reinforced our commitment of powering good for a sustainable energy future. A recent life cycle assessment study of the newest HVDC Light generation compared with previous generation showed that we have reduced our carbon footprint by two thirds. That corresponds to the annual carbon footprint of around a quarter of a million people.
During a recent IEA ministerial roundtable which I attended on ‘Mobilizing Investments for Secure and Sustainable Power Systems’ there was a clear and unanimous view: having proved its resilience during these extraordinary times, a reliable and efficient power sector is crucial for social stability and economic recovery. It will play a pivotal role for the sustainable energy future.
Whilst we continue investing in clean energy sources and energy efficiency/flexibility, we must also accelerate grid development across geographies. Technologies – be it for interconnected grids or distributed systems – cannot become the bottleneck due to obsolete and non-collaborative business models. Accelerating digitalization will enable our grids to become more flexible and reliable. And simultaneously, governments also need to set the right boundary conditions with new regulations and policies. Focused investment, leveraging technology and collaboration across stakeholders and countries will be key in supporting a secure, scalable and sustainable power grid.
But, investment in power and digital technology is also crucial across many sectors, like mobility, smart life (cities), industry and IT sectors (data centers). Within our new joint venture, we have more than 100 years of engineering know how in the power and industrial sector. We count on the largest installed base in the space of power systems for electric utilities and large industries. As an example, our Operational Technology (OT) systems control and protect around 30% of the electric networks globally and our software is used on a daily basis to manage over one million power assets globally – a unique knowledge base we continuously leverage in our innovation cycle.
Now more than ever we all need to come together to solve the colossal challenges facing society. No player, no matter how good, can do it alone and this is a topic that is frequently discussed within the energy industry which needs to keep mission-critical infrastructure running without interruption.
Perspectives provides an open, accessible and thought-provoking forum where we can exchange leading-edge thinking. Looking across the utility and energy, mobility, smart life (cities), industry and IT sectors – where we face common challenges – we can also benefit from diversity of ideas.
In particular, by fusing the latest in energy and digital thinking, combined with pioneering spirit and cross-sector dialogue we can co-create solutions that deliver real break-throughs. Together, we can close the gap for the billion people without access to reliable electricity and contribute to societal progress for everyone. Perspectives is a humble and inclusive attempt to further this process for collective benefit.
This first edition of Perspectives is focused on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 7: Access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all. Together, with customers and partners, we explore the importance of a reliable, resilient and flexible grid and take a closer look at how adopting digitalization can unlock growth through new business models that are vital for recovery.
Last but not least, I would like to personally thank industry colleagues and true thought leaders, Dr. Fatih Birol, Executive Director, International Energy Agency (IEA), Ms. Seema Gupta, Director of Operations, Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL), Mr. KVS Baba, Chairman and Managing Director, Power System Operation Corporation Limited (POSOCO) and Agustin Delgado, Chief Innovation and Sustainability Officer, Iberdrola, for sharing their inspiring Perspectives.
CEO, Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd.