ABB plans third base to harness Scotland’s power

ABB, the global engineering and power group, plans to open a third base in Scotland as it helps upgrade the nation’s electricity network.

ABB electical engineering company offshore subsea cable laying operation. Picture: Contributed

The Swiss-headquartered multinational employs 300 staff at its principal sites in Aberdeen and East Kilbride, and is planning to hire another 100. It said it has seen “rapid growth” through oil and gas work in the North-east and is eyeing fresh opportunities in wave and tidal projects as well as rail electrification.

The group secured a key framework contract last year with Scottish Hydro owner SSE to develop substations to reinforce the power grid in the region. The firm hopes it will be awarded contracts for grid reinforcement projects in Caithness and the Western Isles.

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Colin Green, ABB’s head of regulatory affairs and technology for the UK, said the in­dustrial giant was also streng­thening its relationships with the local supply chain “on the basis that these large projects are going to come through”.

He told Scotland on Sunday: “The critical element has been securing the SSE framework agreement and hopefully getting to contract award on one or both of the major grid reinforcement projects.

“It means that we will have to expand our offices. We are probably looking at about 100 or so additional local personnel and the supply chain is likely to have to expand on the subcontracting side.”

He said that while the group would probably co-locate with the Scots utility giant on some project offices in the North-east, it was also looking at ­another site of its own in the “very north-east” of the country.

“We need to do more work to decide on a location in terms of manpower and transportation,” added Green. “Aberdeen is mainly specialising in the oil and gas side, but there’s a lot of grid reinforcement work around Dounreay.

“What we are doing more and more of in the UK and for the Scottish projects is building up the in-house resource – the design capability, skilled engineers and project management, as well as using the local capabilities around the actual construction.”

UK-wide, the group – the world’s largest supplier of transformers – employs some 3,000 people across about 20 locations with its headquarters in Warrington, Cheshire. It has a shareholding in Aquamarine Power, developer of the Oyster wave power system.

Green said: “We saw the power market as a significant opportunity for ABB in Scotland and are now seeing that feeding through. We are starting to gain real momentum and build up a critical mass in Scotland.

“The firm is also talking to academia about how we can collaborate. We have been running a successful apprenticeship scheme in England that can be extended.”