Case Study

ABB South Africa – Helping to grow a sustainable economy

Sustainable development is possibly the most important challenge facing society today, and pioneering technology leader ABB is committed to assisting companies in the transition to a low-carbon future by providing technology for affordable and clean energy – the seventh Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015.

Collectively, the 17 SDGs provide the blueprint for a sustainable future, with all UN member states working to achieve this vision by 2030. The SDGs provide meaningful action and targets to address global challenges of ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring that people enjoy peace and prosperity.


ABB recognises that businesses must be part of this action, which is why it is continually looking for ways to contribute to several SDGs, while also enabling other companies to do their part. In fact, SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy, directly relates to ABB’s core competency as a long-term leader in electrification and digital industries. Its technologies are transforming the way energy is generated and delivered; helping industries increase productivity to generate more jobs and greater prosperity; and improving the urban environment with e-mobility and smart buildings and infrastructure.

ABB is a pioneer in microgrid technology, which are well-suited to meet challenges facing conventional electricity provision for remote communities. These grids integrate multiple, often variable, energy resources and supply loads are located at or near the place where energy is used. In sunny or windy places, microgrids can be powered by renewable energy, such as solar farms or wind turbines. They are an essential solution for communities who are too far from the main electricity grid to receive affordable power, and they have an important role to play in decarbonising our energy supply.

As an example, ABB installed a microgrid system on Robben Island, the World Heritage Site and museum where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during apartheid, which has lowered fossil fuel consumption with more than 230,000 litres of diesel and reduced carbon emissions with 820 tons. The island previously relied on carbon-emitting diesel generators as its sole source of power but now uses the solar hybrid microgrid for all its electricity needs nine months of the year. This can be operated remotely from Cape Town, nine kilometres away by sea, further reducing costs.

A solar PV-diesel-battery microgrid is also installed at ABB’s Longmeadow head office in Johannesburg, reducing carbon emissions by more than 1 000 tons a year and annual diesel fuel costs by 30%.

In addition, ABB has embarked on a comprehensive programme to address infrastructure development, job growth, especially among unemployed youth, and improve education quality. This is because a sustainable future relies on people who have been educated in the critical skills needed to push society forward. As such, in South Africa, ABB has invested close to R10 million over the last five years in education, contributing towards SDG 4: Quality Education.

This investment has included ensuring electrical studies were taught at school level, and promising college and university students were given bursaries to study electrical engineering. Other educational projects include investing in industrial digital technology (IIoT) training for youth at the WITS Tshimologong Digital Precinct in Johannesburg and providing interactive math modules at primary school level.

ABB has made a point of providing learnerships to almost 500 young people over the past five years, including those living with disabilities, in areas such as technical, engineering and support functions to provide them with valuable experiental learning to secure employment.

ABB is committed to supporting a sustainable future in South Africa and will continue to provide the technology and services that enable other companies to make this transition

About ABB

Let’s write the future. Together.

ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a technology leader that is driving the digital transformation of industries. With a history of innovation spanning more than 130 years, ABB has four customer-​focused, globally leading businesses: Electrification, Industrial Automation, Motion, and Robotics & Discrete Automation, supported by the ABB Ability™ digital platform. ABB’s Power Grids business will be divested to Hitachi in 2020. ABB operates in more than 100 countries with about 147,000 employees.

Sustainability at ABB

For ABB, sustainability is about balancing economic success, environmental stewardship and social progress to benefit all our stakeholders. Sustainability is part of ABB’s corporate strategy and business success. 

Sustainability considerations cover how we design and manufacture products, what we offer customers, how we engage suppliers, how we assess risks and opportunities, and how we behave in the communities where we operate and towards one another, while striving to ensure the health, safety and security of our employees, contractors and others affected by our activities.

Ensuring clean energy to power remote communities thanks to state of the art microgrid solutions

ABB is a major partner to the global solar industry, an important player in the transition to an energy supply incorporating renewable sources

The top priority is keeping energy use to the absolute minimum.  ABB is leading the way in cutting down on waste and leading powering electric vehicles.