Carl Hedman

Engineering a way out of a crisis

“I believe that many new engineers may reason that thinking freely is great, but thinking right is greater, and that their future work may contribute to the better for all of us,” declares Carl Hedman, winner of ABB Motion’s Sustainability Challenge 2021.

ABB Motion’s Sustainability Challenge 2021 put future engineers to the test

The competition – open to Swedish University and College students – was themed ‘Developing the most sustainable solution for a better world’. Launched in April, the contest brief pointed out that ‘the energy that does not need to be consumed has the least environmental impact’, a message that Carl took to heart while developing his entry.

“Being creative on demand was a challenge,” he says, “but I found that it was possible to work around this issue by inverting the problem. If you instead investigate reasons not to use energy efficiently, you have an easier time locating possible sources of the problem.” One issue that can prevent uptake of more efficient motors is the cost.

Carl’s solution, called “Charge per Energy”, seeks to reduce the number of inefficient motors connected to the grid. The idea is to charge customers a fee per megawatt hour for the use of an electric motor, rather than needing to purchase one themselves, thereby transferring the financial risk to ABB and ensuring that more energy efficient motors reach the market as quickly as possible.

“The fee per megawatt hour can be adjusted to ensure that the customer’s running costs remain unchanged,” explains Carl. “At the same time, the customer gets greater value for money as the new motors will have a higher availability factor.” Replacing inefficient motors has a great effect, helping to reduce energy usage and carbon emissions.

Engagement and opportunity

ABB Motion’s Sustainability Challenge aims to engage students with the pressing issue of energy efficiency. “When a third of all electricity consumption is spent on driving motors in the world, it is of the highest priority that we use as energy-efficient motors, generators and drive systems as possible”, says David Bjerhag, Regional Division Manager, ABB Motors & Generators.

36 entries were submitted, of which ten were chosen as finalists. “This has been a really fun competition and a great way to have an exciting dialogue with students who are passionate about future energy solutions,” Bjerhag continues. “Carl’s competition entry is both innovative and implementable and shows a deeper thinking linked to business systems that facilitates transactions between the parties”.

Carl, who studies Energy Systems as part of his Master’s degree in Engineering, will start a summer job at ABB Motion in Västerås, Sweden as part of his award for winning the competition.

Carl believes it is possible to ‘engineer’ our way out of an environmental crisis, so his fellow students have a major role to play in improving sustainability. “Many talented engineers are educated each year and I am confident that the next generation of engineers will be the source of many new innovations and ideas.”

However, he adds, “It will require great effort and lots of multi-disciplinary research to ensure that solutions, which at first glance may appear good, do not further accelerate the crisis. The solutions that will take us out of the crisis also need to be cost effective, as they will otherwise have a hard time in a market economy. The Energy Efficiency Movement is a good initiative showing how you can build good businesses around efficient use of energy.”

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