ABB’s Scarlett Harrod talks carbon emissions at Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster

Panel discussion at RTCC's annual meeting examines trends toward a low-carbon future

On Wednesday, December 9, the Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC) convened a panel—online, of course—of local industry leaders to discuss “why they have adopted carbon-free goals and how they envision getting there.”

Scarlett Harrod, Industry and Account Manager at ABB, was on the virtual stage and she had some interesting perspectives. Following are some excerpts from the conversation.

Carbon free plans may make people may think of solar panels and wind turbines.  What are some of the other technologies that will be needed to hit the carbon emission goals?  And what role does a company like ABB play in this transition?

The most economical and lowest emission energy resource is the energy you never use. Energy efficiency remains the best way to avoid carbon emissions and negative climate impact, even if it’s not the flashy solution. From an ABB perspective, 57% of ABB revenue in 2019 came from our eco-efficiency portfolio. That’s roughly $16 billion and it covers everything from power generation to heavy industry (e.g., oil & gas, chemicals, metals and mining) as well as transportation, food & beverage, and consumer packaged goods production.

Our smart technologies are helping to meet many of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in energy, cities, industry and infrastructure, water, work and production. One example is in ship propulsion and electrification technology. The largest 20 container ships cause 3% of global carbon emissions, so there’s major room for improvement in the maritime industry.

On the industrial side, motors, drives, instrumentation (measuring your entire operation), gas leak detection, robotics, electrical, and process automation are all layers to create or improve energy generation or an industrial process.

ABB also plays a key role by making our own operations more sustainable. We were recognized for that as one of the World’s 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in 2019. We have identified areas where we can reduce our scope 1 (direct from operations) and scope 2 (from energy consumed) CO2 emissions by at least 80 percent and we continuously work on opportunities to do more.

Our 2030 commitment says that:

  • We will support our customers in reducing their annual CO2 emissions by at least 100 megatons, equivalent to the annual emissions of 30 million combustion cars.
  • We will achieve carbon neutrality across our own operations.
  • We engage with our suppliers to extend our impact in reducing emissions across the entire supply chain.

We have talked a lot about North Carolina, but ABB is a global company.  How do the trends we are seeing here in North Carolina compare to what ABB is seeing elsewhere across the globe?

The challenge is the same all over the world. Water and wastewater infrastructure is a good example, reducing the amount of water and electricity that is lost during transmission and distribution or due to changes in demand patterns. We supplied automation and instrumentation technology to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam that reduced water loss by 30%.

Closer to home, you may have seen that two new zero-emission ferries went into service at Niagara Falls, the Maid of the Mist, and are the first all-electric vessels built in the US. They’re powered by high-capacity battery packs supplied and integrated by ABB. In addition to batteries, ABB has supplied a comprehensive integrated power and propulsion solution for the ferries, including an onshore charging system, enabling sustainable operation with maximum reliability.

This has been an exciting project for ABB in the US, and we expect to see more hybrid and all-electric vessels in the near future.

Staying with transport, how fast can we scale zero emissions vehicles and what types of infrastructure changes will be needed?

You need four things for sustainable transportation/EVs to achieve their full potential: renewable power generation, a connection to bring that power to the grid, charging infrastructure and the EV itself. ABB and Hitachi ABB Power Grids are heavily invested in the electrification of transport and we supply essential components for everything except the actual vehicle.

As the title sponsor of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, we are engaged with the world’s leading auto OEMs to refine EV charging, drive trains, and material science all the way to the tire technology. This is the world’s first and only electric vehicle racing series. It’s an exciting example of how quickly technology collaboration and competition can produce innovation that is immediately applied to the vehicles we drive and see on the roads every day.

Passenger and light duty EV technology has evolved considerably over the last 5 years. ABB’s Terra HP can fully charge a Tesla in under 8 minutes. The priority challenge at the moment is heavy duty and fleet vehicle conversion to EV or zero emissions technology. The fleets are perfect for electrification because their vehicles move on known routes that can be optimized with battery charging at night or “opportunity charging” along the way.

One of the main issues in the transportation challenge is mass transit. Electric buses and trains are the norm in Europe and are quickly spreading to other densely populated areas of the world. Here we are not limited by the technology but by the ability to agree on, finance, and execute on mass transit solutions.

Between now and 2050, what do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge and what will it take for North Carolina to be successful?

Without a doubt, addressing climate change and mitigating/reducing all the negative impacts that has on North Carolinians. We need to take action to reduce emissions, plan and execute on smart infrastructure, educate and train workers to participate in the cleantech industry, and protect those who experience the worst of the adverse effects of emissions, pollution, and resource scarcity.


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About the author

Bob Fesmire

Bob Fesmire is a Content Manager at ABB, based in Cary, North Carolina. He has written more than 150 articles and white papers on a variety of topics including energy efficiency, industrial automation and big data. In addition to his work at ABB, Bob is also the co-author of Energy Explained, a non-technical introduction to all aspects of the energy industry.
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