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A new whitepaper has identified significant energy efficiency improvements in the built environment through the adoption of high efficiency motors and variable speed drives.

The ABB whitepaper calls on governments and industry to accelerate the adoption of this technology to combat climate change.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), industry accounts for 37 per cent of global energy use and some 30 per cent of global energy is consumed in buildings.

While mostly hidden from public view, electric motors - and the variable speed drives which optimize their operation – are embedded in almost every built environment.

They power a vast range of applications from industrial pumps, fans and conveyors for manufacturing and propulsion systems for transportation to compressors for electrical appliances and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in buildings.

Motor and drive technologies have seen rapid advancement in the past decade, with today’s innovative designs delivering remarkable energy efficiencies. However, a significant number of industrial electric motor-driven systems in operation today – in the region of 300 million globally – are inefficient or consume much more power than required, resulting in monumental waste.

Independent research estimates that if these systems were replaced with optimized, high-efficiency equipment, the gains to be realized could reduce global electricity consumption by up to 10 per cent.

This would account for a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions needed to meet the 2040 climate goals established by the Paris Agreement.

ABB motion president, Morten Wierod, said industrial energy efficiency, more than any other challenge, has the single greatest capacity for combatting the climate emergency.

“It is essentially the world’s invisible climate solution,” he said.

“By far the biggest impact we can have in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is through our leading technologies, which reduce energy use in industry, buildings and transport.”

Considerable steps have already been taken to support the uptake of electric vehicles and renewable energy sources. ABB believes it is time to do the same for an industrial technology that will deliver even greater benefits for the environment and the global economy.

“The importance of transitioning industries and infrastructure to these highly energy efficient drives and motors to play their part in a more sustainable society cannot be overstated,” Wierod said.

“With 45 per cent of the world’s electricity used to power electric motors in buildings and industrial applications, investment in upgrading them will yield outsized rewards in terms of efficiency.”

By 2023, ABB motors and drives will enable customers globally to save an additional 78 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, almost as much as the annual consumption of Belgium, Finland or the Philippines and more than the total annual consumption of Chile.

While the European Union will be implementing its Ecodesign Regulation (EU 2019/1781) this year, which sets out stringent new requirements for an expanding range of energy efficient motors, many countries have yet to take action.

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