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Could collaboration be as transformative as technological innovation?

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When it comes to electrification, the advancement of technologies is critical in the journey towards enabling a low carbon society, but are we focusing too much on products and systems, and overlooking the often-underestimated importance of collaboration?

It’s no secret that those specifying electrical systems are under mounting pressure to secure carbon reductions across their operations. This means monitoring and better managing the supply, distribution and consumption of power, while balancing this with the need to reduce costs. To achieve this, engineers understandably turn to state-of-the-art systems and product solutions designed for energy efficiency and a low carbon society.

As digital technologies become more advanced, delivering on carbon reduction targets is becoming ever more achievable. That said, specifiers often concentrate on product portfolios and cost when choosing a solutions provider, and not enough on whole life performance and cost, and the power of collaboration that is more often than not the true enabler for change.

Optimising the specification of carbon reduction technologies through collaboration

By definition, collaboration means to work with someone to produce something – not a new concept by any means, but one that has been somewhat diluted in recent years online, where teams ‘collaborate’ on workflow management platforms towards a predetermined goal. 

The word collaboration is all too often used to describe individuals or teams working in parallel to one another, or completing tasks separately in linear to create one finished result – but is this really true collaboration in the most meaningful sense of the word?

Case study: How Enel and ABB developed the world’s first sustainable 24kV SF6-free ring main unit

Showcasing the power of working together, Enel Global Infrastructure & Networks and ABB will achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and provide reliable and sustainable power across Enel’s networks in Italy and Spain, using ABB’s SF6-free Ring Main Units (RMUs) – a solution that was specifically designed for Enel’s requirements.

Gas insulated switchgear, widely used in MV secondary substations, conventionally contain SF6 – which has excellent dielectric and arc extinguishing properties, but at the same time is the world’s most potent greenhouse gas, with a global warming potential 25,200 times that of CO₂ over a 100-year period.

Francesco Amadei, Head of Engineering & Construction, Enel Global Infrastructure and Networks for Enel, explained, “To reach our net zero goals, sustainability must be at the core of our present and future business. For this reason, at Enel we started integrating new principles in all our processes, including sustainable specifications together with technical and economical parameters already in place.

“The collaboration with innovative partners, such as ABB, is key to accelerate the delivery of sustainable grids worldwide, a challenging path that must include all components and assets of the value chain. Innovative solutions like ABB’s SF6-free technology will help us to minimise our global warming impact and support our commitment to the 13th SDG goal – Climate Action. They will also help to make our networks safer and more reliable, ensuring continuity and quality of the electricity supply to our customers.”

Case study: How Park Holidays and ABB delivered scalable energy savings

Proving that collaboration is just as powerful downstream, Park Holidays, one of the UK’s largest holiday park operators, has optimised energy usage across one prime location and opened the door for further sites and a broader sustainability focus.

Park Holidays has 42 sites across the country, serving the fast-growing ‘staycation’ market. With staycations in the UK set to grow from £21 billion in 2013 to £57 billion by 2025, the company is responding with a strategic programme of expansion and upgrades to accommodation, catering, sport and entertainment facilities. However, remote visibility of its assets and energy consumption posed a challenge to the Group.

At Park Holiday’s Carlton Meres holiday park on the Suffolk coast, the installation of a new low voltage (LV) distribution board provided an opportunity to collaboratively reassess its requirements and introduce a more digitally connected approach. With the site maintenance team pressing for more power at site level and Group personnel unable to access real time data on the park’s energy consumption, current and other parameters, the need for data acquisition and connectivity was clear.

“With the increasing pressure on energy pricing in the UK, Park Holidays wanted greater real-time visibility and insight on how their assets were performing,” commented Reeve Carter, National Sales Manager UK from ABB. 

“The solution we installed does just that; it gives the team insight and knowledge that will help them to save as much energy as they can and keep their costs as low as possible, without impacting the overall guest experience.”

Adapting existing technology to suit the customer through a process of collaboration, this was the first switchboard in the UK to be designed and built with ABB Ability Energy & Asset Manager integrated. The ABB Ability Energy & Asset Manager optimises energy usage, achieving savings of up to 20% on utility bills and up to 30% on overall operational costs.

Since installation, the technology is already providing the site team and Group with greater visibility and a common dataset on which to base forecasts and decisions about future power requirements. The electrical operations team has found this particularly useful in monitoring real-time power and peak demand, as well as reviewing data on cable size to enable optimisation and manage future power demand and costs.

“This solution puts us in a strong position to extend the model, helping Park Holidays to connect our other UK locations,” added Warrick Brew, Park Holidays Electrical Operations Manager. 

“We are also exploring the potential to integrate other facilities management data onto the ABB Ability platform as we believe that the Energy & Asset Manager can help us to meet our sustainability commitments and achieve further cost savings across our estate.”

Choosing collaboration to drive change

When it comes to progressing towards a low carbon society, a more accurate definition of collaboration is the power of together we are seeing throughout our customer interactions. This is where professionals and teams across the globe are jointly developing innovative solutions to real-world challenges. And this is why it matters. Because with true collaboration, real-world challenges can be overcome, benefitting society and the planet.

The beauty of true collaboration comes when we can dig below the surface and really understand the drivers and intricacies of a challenge. For example, rather than simply stating that a customer needs to reduce energy consumption and costs, true collaboration allows us to discover why and how they consume energy, precisely how we can reduce it without affecting processes and outputs, and most importantly, how much we can reduce their consumption by. Without collaboration, engineers cannot always be certain that they are optimising the systems they are specifying or achieving the best possible results.

In other words, only through collaboration can we understand the wider context of the challenge, develop the right holistic solution, and then support it with the system knowledge, training and ongoing service that will enable operators to continually optimise performance in a changing energy landscape. To achieve this, collaboration cannot start at the point of ordering and stop once new technologies have been installed. Collaboration is the forging of ongoing relationships that achieve not just the initial objective but overcome the subsequent challenges that make energy reduction a permanent shift change in reality and mindset.

The journey towards carbon reduction and a more sustainable electrical distribution sector will be different for each organisation throughout the value chain, but the notion remains the same. The power of collaboration is often underestimated and should be considered alongside specifying the most advanced technologies. The right collaborative partner can support in overcoming energy efficiency and sustainability challenges at a deeper level, and ultimately deliver more tangible results.

Morten Wierod

President of Electrification at ABB

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