ABB Jenny Bjorkman Real Estate

Real Estate, Real Energy Savings

Many factors affect the energy efficiency of real estate holdings, from the external structure of buildings including doors and windows, to internal elements such as heating and lighting. For most companies, meeting sustainability targets requires improving energy efficiency in this area.

Overall, buildings are responsible for over 30% of global energy consumption. We need to reconsider how we design and operate buildings, and to choose more energy efficient designs and technologies for the future. Governments around the world are already legislating to direct things in a more sustainable direction and, for example, the European Union hopes to reduce the energy consumption of new buildings to close to zero.

“Improving energy efficiency is an ideological change.”

Good business and environmental sense

Reducing the amount of energy we use in critical processes is an excellent way to reduce the environmental impact of operations. It also makes good business sense. Shareholders are demanding more corporate responsibility at the same time as regulations require companies to commit and adhere to emission targets. And cutting energy use reduces costs.

“Improving energy efficiency in their real estate is something most big companies have on their agenda,” explains Stefan Beretitsch, Global Head of Green Real Estate at ABB. “This is an ideological change.”

Jenny Björkman, Head of Real Estate at ABB Motion agrees. “New regulations are forcing companies to reduce their energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions,” she says.

Internal energy reviews at ABB sites worldwide saved the company over $8 million and 15% energy over three years, says Jenny Björkman, Head of Real Estate at ABB Motion.

Opportunities depend on the particular facility

Different facilities have different requirements and opportunities regarding energy investment. For example, old HVAC systems are inefficient, often equipped with low efficiency motors that should be upgraded. And while a lot of heat can be generated from production processes, that heat is frequently not reused. On the other hand, the large rooftops present in many industrial facilities are the perfect place to put PV modules and generate energy on-site.

In addition to basic elements which can reduce the running costs of a building, such as good thermal insulation, modern buildings can benefit from building management systems. With these systems, the energy requirements of the building are automatically adjusted to adapt to actual needs. For example, lights can be turned off when no one is using a room, air flow and heating can be reduced at weekends or lunch breaks, or blinds can be closed when the windows are in direct sunlight.

Even in sites not directly owned by ABB, the company is involved in improving energy efficiency. “As a tenant we also put pressure on our landlords to make sure that our leased sites are energy efficient while working to improve our own sites. It is important for all owners of real estate assets to be able to provide energy efficient buildings in the future,” explains Björkman.

Identifying potential energy savings

With pressure to adopt new best practices, it is not always easy to identify the best places to make energy savings when managing large property portfolios. Adopting a structured approach is needed in order to make suitable choices regarding energy conservation measures.

“Concentrating on low-hanging fruit is not the answer.”

“Concentrating on low-hanging fruit like changing to LED lightbulbs is not the answer,” Beretitsch says. “Soon we will reach the point where there are no such fruits left, and we need to do more to better efficiency.”
As a large global company, ABB owns hundreds of sites worldwide. ABB Real Estate oversees the management of these facilities, and part of their remit is to increase energy efficiency.

“We have a wide range of sites, some are very old with little or no documentation, so it can be a challenge to get a clear idea of the technical infrastructure.”

Nonetheless, between 2018 and 2020, over $8 million in savings were realized through energy savings programs at ABB sites, and greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 19.5 kilotons per year.

ABB’s Green Real Estate adopts a modular approach which gives the company the opportunity to identify energy savings potentials at their sites.

At any given site, the total energy consumption may be known but not how much usage each element is responsible for. Therefore, the first step in improving energy efficiency is to analyse the energy structure and identify the main components, their condition, and how much energy they consume. With this information, benchmarks can be created, and energy and emission reduction goals set.

Analysing potential with Rapid Energy Reviews

To assist in this analysis, ABB introduced a new tool in 2020 – the Rapid Energy Review (RER). Local specialists with expertise in energy efficiency topics and knowledge of the location help detect energy savings potential.

“The results from completed RERs have identified an average energy savings potential of 15% and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 18%,” Björkman explains. With such savings come a payback time of less than one year compared to the costs of the RER service.

Energy savings of 15% and reduced greenhouse gas emissions

“We provide support with the processes to Real Estate departments in different countries,” says Beretitsch, “but we don’t reinvent the wheel at each site. We create a dynamic calculation for these kinds of investments, including the effects of future energy prices.”

With a clear idea of a site’s energy structure, the second step concentrates on short- and medium-term investments. Through optimizing, upgrading and metering components and sub-systems, immediate improvements can be seen.

“The building technology is the next level of savings,” continues Beretitsch, “including things like ventilation systems, HVAC, and heat recovery. These are the main topics that appear in our reviews.”

The third and final step of the process is to focus on the entire energy system. The ultimate goal is to develop emission-free sites through long-term investments.

Walking the energy efficiency talk

The introduction of ABB’s smart products is a key part of the GRE approach. Through connected assets, data is collected and analysed in ABB Ability’s energy management solutions. These platforms deliver valuable insights and enable the introduction of effective energy management strategies.

“At ABB, we are walking the talk,” concludes Björkman. “As a company we have made binding commitments regarding achieving carbon neutrality. And we use our own technology to do so. Increasing energy efficiency in real estate needs time and investment, but we are happy to see different stakeholders engaging in energy efficiency improvements together.”

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