Ian Funnell, the managing director of ABB UK, has told Scotland’s politicians how the latest smart grid technology can help the country continue to make the switch from traditional fuels to renewable energy, and called for longer term certainty in government infrastructure planning to help the private sector to invest and bring equipment to market at the right times
He said: “As the Scottish Government develops its energy and climate change strategies, the role of new technology will increase. Among our challenges are ensuring we have the infrastructure to support a low carbon economy. With an increasing dependence on wind energy, how can we store energy so that it is available for use when people need it, removing the challenges of intermittent energy sources?”
Funnell was addressing an audience of more than 100 legislators and senior executives from some of ABB’s key clients who attended the company’s first reception for members of the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood on 29 November. The theme of the gathering was “Delivering a Sustainable Energy Strategy for Scotland”, a reference to the government’s objective of generating the equivalent of 100% of the country’s power from renewable sources by 2020.
ABB has been at the forefront of Scotland’s renewable installation drive. This year it helped to establish the transmission system for the underwater turbines that are being installed in the Pentland Firth in the north of Scotland, which is set to become the largest tidal scheme in the world. Once all 269 turbines are in place they will produce 400 megawatts, enough to power 175,000 homes. The company is also quietly upgrading the country’s grid with the “innovative and transformative technology” that will be necessary for the smooth functioning of tomorrow’s network.
The Scottish Government can assist this process by longer-term planning. Funnell said: “ABB believes that the government needs to set out an energy strategy for the long term. We know what works and through our international expertise; we know which technologies will bring the biggest benefits to Scotland. But we need a climate of stability to ensure that investment is made in these technologies and to bring our brightest engineers to develop solutions. The government’s infrastructure plan published last year goes some way to achieving that but we need greater certainly through the planning process.”
Speaking for the government, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, took the opportunity to reflect on Scotland’s success in reducing carbon emissions by 45 percent meeting the 2020 target six years early. He also congratulated the private sector for creating the country’s low carbon and renewables industry from scratch over the past 20 years, and thanked ABB for its part in developing innovative technologies required to deliver a sustainable energy strategy for Scotland.
To give the guests an insight into those innovative technologies, ABB offered a virtual tour of its “digital substation” concept using Oculus Rift technology. These state of the art substations are smaller, cheaper and technically superior to conventional units, and improve the overall performance of electricity grids in which they are installed.
Paul Wheelhouse MSP takes a virtual reality tour of a digital substation demonstrated by ABB apprentice Kyle McPartlin
The other item on ABB’s agenda was the drive to improve the productivity, and therefore the competitiveness, of Scotland’s manufacturing industries. The company intends to do this by delivering the “4th industrial revolution”, that is, super-efficient automation solutions based on smart equipment linked by the industrial internet of things. Funnell told the guests that A BB was in a unique position to drive innovation as it had an installed base of more than 70,000 control systems connecting 70 million devices. He said: “At present, only a tiny fraction of the data collected by industrial control systems is positively used. Our ambition is to make sure that all the relevant data to help manufacturers operate more reliably, efficiently, productively and sustainably is not only collected but fully analysed and acted on to improve operations.”