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ABB Electric Drives Saved $34bn for US Customers in 2011

ABB’s installed base of electric drives saved about 310 million MWh of electricity in 2011, a 19 percent increase from the previous year, according to the power and automation giant’s annual savings estimate.

Industrial electric motors, which are used to pump water, run fans and air conditioning as well as convey goods over belts, rolling steel and moving elevators, account for about 25 percent of all electricity consumed worldwide, ABB said. Electric drives are used to regulate the speed and power consumption of electric motors.

The ABB drives saved US customers about $34 billion in electricity costs based on 2011 prices, the company said, and were equivalent to the electricity generated by more than 30 nuclear power station blocks, or to the annual power consumption of 75 million EU households. If the electricity saved had come entirely from fossil fuels, the drives would have prevented 260 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

ABB’s annual savings estimate is based on a comparison of the average electricity consumption in appliances with and without drives. Many electric motors not equipped with drive technology run a maximum speed and are throttled if less performance is needed, ABB said.

Energy accounts for up to 95 percent of the lifecycle cost of a motor, depending on its size. An electric drive typically pays back in less than two years, ABB said.

Carbon Trust’s Motors and Drive Technology Overview, which was released in November 2011, found that a running motor’s energy use in one year can cost up to 10 times its purchase cost. Motors tend to be left running even when they’re not needed because they’re often hidden within machinery.

The potential for energy and cost savings is enormous since only about 10 percent of industrial motors are combined currently with electric drives, said Ulrich Spiesshofer, head of ABB’s discrete automation and motion division.

In related news, ABB announced it has won orders valued at more than $30 million to design, supply, install and commission new substations for Saudi Arabia’s national power transmission and distribution operator. The substations are meant to enhance power capacity and meet growing electricity demand from industrial development in the region as well as improve grid reliability and power quality, ABB said.

Photo of main hoist mechanical drum from ABB

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