The biggest challenges the world faces can only be overcome with a concerted effort from government, industry and society. And ABB has already thrown its hat in the ring—the global industrial technologies and electrification leader is dedicated to innovating and collaborating to push boundaries for a more productive, and sustainable future.
“Our role and responsibility is not just about performance and technology,” says Tarak Mehta, President of ABB Electrification and Member of the Group’s Executive Committee. “We need to make a difference.”
We talk to Mehta about the future of electrification, how ABB is pivoting to meet consumer expectations, and the need for a new energy framework.
Accenture: How are you and your team leveraging innovation and megatrends—such as decarbonization, energy efficiency, and electric mobility—to power business growth within the electrification market?
Tarak Mehta: The world is shifting to electricity, and that’s driving those megatrends. They are also being driven by the fact that we are consuming more data every day, spurred on by the 5G revolution. This will create a huge need for data, and data centers will consume more and more of the world’s energy.
To prepare, we’ve just announced an IPO for our EV Charging business. We’ve invested in that business for a decade and are taking a leadership position. We have also invested in making compelling technical solutions that have led to our number one market position when it comes to direct current (DC) fast charging for electric vehicles. Our new product, Terra 360, enables four cars to be charged at the same time with one infrastructure, or one car at 360 kilowatts. We are innovating to make sure the infrastructure is scalable and usable, and that operators and owners can get the most out of that infrastructure.
The grid setup is also evolving. The grid refers to a network of transmission lines, substations, transformers and more that deliver electricity from the power plant to your home and business. What’s changing is that the infrastructure on which energy transmits itself from generation to consumption is becoming an intersection, rather than a one lane highway. We are helping utility companies manage that new energy flow in more than two directions. In this context, generation, consumption, and storage are all important. Storage in, for example, electric cars can help solve one of the biggest problems in the world: as we shift to renewables, critics often cite the fact that technologies like wind and solar only produce energy when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining. In order to effectively utilize renewable energy storage is the key solution.
Last but not least, more than 30% of the world's energy is consumed by buildings. Most buildings are below five stories and, unless they’re big complexes like a hotel, don’t have any automation technology. We see a huge opportunity here to optimize energy management, efficiency and consumption.
Accenture: Consumers want a fully digital commerce experience and COVID accelerated that. What are you doing to meet those expectations?
TM: Search is almost exclusively done online, and the role of the salesperson has changed as customers have now already researched more before making contact. It means we must ensure our products and solutions are visible on the web through distributors portals or search engines—or really anywhere customers are looking for answers. Thanks to COVID, we have learned that you don't always need a personal interaction to make a multimillion-dollar decision. As a result, we’re developing products and solutions that are easy to configure and deploy, using web tools and cloud connectivity to reduce installation efforts and streamline the user experience.
The final part of buying behavior relates to capital goods companies that buy our solutions as-a-service. For example, protection-as-a-service, efficiency-as-a-service, energy-savings-as-a-service—where we are investing in AI start-ups like BrainBox, whose technology sits on top of building automation systems. We can use their technology to extract data and combine it with what we see in the market, to optimize building automation solutions.
Finally, the biggest transformation ahead for us will involve moving from a capital goods-oriented business model to an as-a-service model.
Accenture: What inspires you?
TM: It's great to have billions behind you and make an impact. But I’m inspired by the people who have practically nothing, yet come up with a unique stroke of brilliance, of innovation, of risk-taking, to build something that later looks easy but clearly wasn't. People that invest years of effort, sweat, and tears. Those kinds of people, organizations and institutions are, to me, more inspiring. Especially when you think about how much of the world today doesn't have what the rest of the world takes for granted—whether that’s access to electricity, water or vaccines. People who make a difference in those areas of necessity are a source of inspiration for me.