Pekka Tiitinen, President, Discrete Automation and Motion division, ABB, sheds light on the company’s preparedness for the impending solar boom and the role of R&D in this space, in an interview with Monica Chaturvedi Charna…
Kindly shed light on the ABB Automation and Power World 2015 event and what is its significance?
This is the second time that the ABB Automation and Power World 2015 event is happening in India, after a time span of 4 years. The last one happened in 2011. We keep doing such events in the key global markets. It is a combined training and product fair that enables the top management of ABB to interact with customers and the media.
How has ABB fared in the solar power business?
The company has been in the solar power business for quite a few years now and India has been at the forefront of our research and development (R&D). We have achieved great success in supporting India’s ambitious solar programmes, primarily the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM). ABB has a complete range of electrical components including solar inverters, container boxes, transformers, switch gears, substations, etc. But, we don’t do the panels and don’t undertake EPC activities.
Are you working on the energy storage front as well?
Electricity storage is a big thing and we have partnered with some of the key players, but we are not in the battery business. However, we are in the process of launching our latest solar inverter called REACT in India. Our biggest storage facility is in Alaska where we have delivered a 450 MW of storage system where the energy is coming from the power unit. So, if the grid goes down, the storage system provides the backup.
There was a concern by domestic manufacturers against dumping of Chinese power equipment post which, the Indian government had to impose anti dumping duty. What are your views on this?
A similar scenario was witnessed in other parts of the world as well. Even the European Union imposed the anti dumping barrier against Chinese products, and a similar thing happened in the US also. As far as ABB is concerned, we produce the electrical components including transformers, inverters locally, to suit the specific requirements.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Solar Alliance, an alliance of 122 countries to turn to the sun to power their future at the Paris Climate Change Summit. What role will players like ABB play to see that the penetration of solar power improves?
At ABB, we have been focusing a lot on R&D to make better products, and more importantly, offer cost effective solutions so that solar energy can be harnessed in a better and cheaper way. Solar has reached grid parity in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, we do not have a mechanism to impose fee on countries for polluting the environment, like a carbon emission tax. Such a tax is applicable in Europe, and that has restricted the level of carbon emission. Owing to the industrial boom, developing nations are facing a lot of pressure from developed nations to curb the rate of emission. Here, solar can play a big role and help in reducing the dependence on coal based power generation. At ABB, our focus is to reduce the life cycle cost of projects by providing better and more efficient products.
How is ABB gearing up to meet the Indian government’s ambitious plan of building 100 smart cities?
We would be very happy to support this plan and our constant R&D efforts are directed at delivering latest technology products to cater to the prospective demand, once the smart cities plan goes under implementation.
What are your views on the government’s target of achieving 175 GW of renewable power by 2022? Do you think it is achievable?
I think it is quite achievable. It requires manufacturers like us to step up our production of solar inverters, transformers, switch gears and other components. Alongside, the project development work should also gain pace. Also, the grid needs to be strengthened, and with the 800 kV Agra-NE HVDC link to our credit, ABB is ready to meet that challenge as well.
Kindly tell us about the company’s demand supply management solution.
The company is deeply engaged in the area of demand supply management solution and we have done one of the largest automation projects for the Karnataka grid. In terms of scale and geography, it is one of the biggest and the entire network is controlled by the central control room in Bengaluru. This project was commissioned two years ago.
Will ABB increase its investment in terms of expanding the renewable energy business and increasing the manufacturing capacity in India?
We will absolutely open to increasing the investment in order to meet the growing demand for solar inverters, transformers, etc. in the times to come. R&D being our biggest priority, we will ensure requisite investment happens in this space.