Stronger, smarter, and greener power grid for a sustainable energy
Najeeb Ahmad was appointed as Country Managing Director (CMD) of Hitachi ABB Power Grids Pakistan in December 2019 following creation of Hitachi-ABB Power Grids joint venture globally. Previously Najeeb was responsible for ABB operations all over Pakistan as Country Managing Director of ABB for 6 years from 2014 to 2019. He joined ABB as a service engineer in ABB Saudi Arabia Service organisation in 1998 and was responsible as lead commissioning engineer before moving to UAE in 2004. Before joining ABB, Najeeb also served in leading consultant organisation NESPAK for more than 4 years and was responsible as senior engineer substation in power & mechanical division. He has over 27 years of management and leadership experience which he gained while working in Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia and UAE before and Pakistan including 22 years with ABB.
Najeeb has a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from University of Engineering & Technology Lahore, Executive MBA degree from SZABIST Dubai, Master’s certificate in Project management from George Washington University School of business and PMP certified from PMI USA.
Following are the edited transcripts of the conversation BR Research had with Mr. Najeeb:
BR Research: Tell us about Hitachi ABB Power Grids global presence and operations in Pakistan in terms of the scope of activities, verticals, and services in Pakistan?
Najeeb Ahmad: ABB Power has been working in Pakistan for 29 years and has executed several projects with Pakistani companies working in the power sector. Hitachi Ltd. and ABB Ltd. recently announced the formation of Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd where the joint vent brings together two highly respected companies to create a new global power leader. Hitachi ABB Power Grids is a global technology leader that serves utility, industry and infrastructure customers across the value chain, and emerging areas like sustainable mobility, smart cities, energy storage and data centers. Hitachi ABB Power Grids has a proven track record, global footprint, and unparalleled installed base. With almost 250 years of combined experience, a comprehensive portfolio and global reach, the new entity is well positioned to create new opportunities for customers, employees, and all other stakeholders.
We are uniquely positioned to serve customers for the energy transition by combining our capabilities across sustainable energy and advanced digital technologies. Transmission & Distribution (T&D) remains a core focus for us as the global market and technology leader. Together with our partners, we co-create innovative solutions across the value chain (plan-operate-maintain). We help our energy customers increase resilience and efficiency and unlock new business models through our capabilities in digital and energy platforms and our focus on intelligent grids. Our portfolio consists of smart solutions, ranging from Renewable Integration and Energy Storage, through Enterprise Asset Management and sustainable mobility, to Energy Service and IT-OT integration solutions.
In Pakistan, the local unit is a 100 percent subsidiary of Hitachi ABB Power Grids Switzerland where we have been serving our customers across utilities, industries, transportation, and infrastructure. We are organized across four business units: Grid Automation, Grid Integration, Transformers and High Voltage Products.
Hitachi ABB Power Grids has been active in Pakistan with its operations (mainly sales and service) in Lahore and Karachi. We have full fledge offices in both cities where head office is in Lahore. Northern geography including Islamabad is being taken care by the team based in Lahore. Parallel to the sales and service operations, there is dedicated project office of CASA 1000 in Islamabad which is being operated and maintained by Hitachi ABB Power Grids Sweden with the support of the local team.
BRR: Hitachi Ltd. and ABB Ltd. have recently completed their JV deal globally. Could you tell us more on how the ownership structure has changed and in what way would this new partnership add value to what ABB has been doing?
NA: We announced the launch of our new joint venture i.e. Hitachi ABB Power Grids, where Hitachi bought an 80.1 percent stake in ABB’s Power Grids business and ABB will maintain a 19.9 percent stake. This entity has a business volume of around $10 billion. The joint venture will be managed by the Power Grids management team to ensure continuity and will be headquartered in Switzerland. We will continue to serve customers in approximately 90 countries.
The partnership with Hitachi allows us to preserve our existing portfolio, which covers Grid Automation, Grid Integration, High Voltage Products and Transformers, and build on our established global leadership in the power sector with increased strength in Japan. It enhances value for customers through synergies with digital platforms and our energy platform and Hitachi’s large project financing capabilities. It will also grow value for society and business in support of a world fit for all next generations. We will broaden our portfolio beyond T&D of electricity with information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) solutions. And we will penetrate such areas as renewables, transportation, data centers more deeply and emerging markets e.g. smart cities and smart buildings.
BRR: What would the formation of Hitachi ABB Power Grids Ltd bring for Pakistan? Are you part of any CPEC projects?
NA: The economy in Pakistan is evolving around industry whose dependence is highly driven using sustainable and cost-efficient energy. The formation of the new entity has put us in position to leverage Hitachi’s digital solutions, to expand its portfolio and extend our offering to cater for the needs of our business in existing as well as end to end power grids solution including digitalization of substations, etc. We are contributing in various ongoing CPEC projects for supplying our High Voltage (HV) equipment in hydel and thermal power plants and others renewable energy and HVDC projects.
BRR: How are you addressing the opportunities and bottlenecks in the transmission and distribution sector in Pakistan?
NA: Transmission system of Pakistan is one of the most complex and dynamic systems currently being operated by any transmission company all-across the globe. We continue to see opportunities in the energy sector in Pakistan although it is a mixed landscape. Hitachi ABB Power Grids has pioneering solutions which enable customers to accelerate in digitalization. Through digitalization, customers can increase their efficiency and optimize their operations. Furthermore, digitalization is helping to unlock new business models and serve the needs of ‘prosumers’ whose purchasing habits are driving transformation in global energy markets.
In view of recent developments in NTDC such as deployment of Flexible AC Transmission System (FACTS) including Static Var Compensation (SVC) and Series Compensation (SC) as well ongoing HVDC and 765kV projects, we are able to customize technologies such as modern SCADA system, Substation Automation System and even digital substations as per customer requirement. Here role of academia and associated R&D centers play pivotal role not only to move hand in hand with power systems stakeholders but also contribute with pioneering technologies to enhance the knowledge base of industry.
BRR: Hitachi ABB Power Grid’s has introduced digital substation technology in UAE and the Middle East. What is digital substation technology, and how could the model be replicated in Pakistan?
NA: Digitalization is the key priority for Hitachi ABB Power Grids applicable in all verticals. In utilities, we see its application in various forms and one of them is the deployment of digital substation in transmission and distribution (T&D) systems. In simple words, a digital substation is more compact, smart / intelligent, and future proof as compared to conventional technologies. One of the greatest advantages of digital substations is its flexibility to operate and expand with minimum possible down time and cost utilizing IEC 61850 technology. In Pakistan, this technology has already been introduced in most utility customers like NTDC, etc.
BRR: What are Hitachi ABB Power Grid’s plans for Pakistan for the next 5-10 years?
NA: Pakistan is an emerging market and land of opportunities specially when it comes to energy and transmission sector. The recent blend of Hitachi & ABB Power Grids is ideally positioned in terms of their rich experience, portfolio diversification and digitalization initiatives to serve its customers not only enabling them to exploit existing infrastructure for deployment of SMART systems (using digitally enabled products and solutions), however also to upgrade their assets to cater future demands which will evolve new era in power systems such EV charging, energy mix shift to renewable energy, digitalization, distributed generation, etc.
The rapid rise in distributed power generation and changes in consumption patterns (for example, the emergence of prosumers) are parts of this changing energy landscape. We have gained tremendous experience executing world class projects globally and regionally and would like to continue with similar successes in Pakistan. We are excited to be at the forefront of sustainable energy innovation. We believe that enabling a stronger, smarter, and greener power grid can drive progress for a sustainable energy future.