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Our History

Our history dates back to the late 1800’s when electrical engineering companies, ASEA and BBC (Brown Boveri & Cie), were formed during Europe’s industrial revolution. After introducing electrical power transmission, rail and industrial technologies, these two pioneering brands merged in 1988 to create ABB. In the following three decades the company continued to develop industry-leading power and automation technologies through a combination of R&D and tactical acquisitions.

In 2020, Hitachi and ABB's Power Grids’ business came together in a joint venture to create a new global leader in pioneering and digital technologies. As individual companies, both had been innovating and improving technology for over a century. Together, as Hitachi ABB Power Grids, we bring forward and build on this remarkable heritage to tackle today's challenges facing business and society. Trusted as a partner of choice to the industry, we co-create best-in-class solutions that deliver on the promise of a sustainable energy future.

Milestones

Please see a selection of notable milestones and key achievements from our company's history.

2019

UK’s first ever use of HVDC technology for connecting offshore wind farms. 

2018

ABB commissioned the first digital substations in Italy

2018

The world's first DC-grid with HVDC Light technology.

2013

Eirgrid’s East-West interconnector linked the power grids of Ireland and the UK in one of the largest orders in ABB’s HVDC history.

2012

ABB develops a hybrid DC breaker suitable for the creation of large inter-regional DC grids. This breakthrough solves a technical challenge that has been left unresolved for over a hundred years and was perhaps one of the main influencers in the 'war of currents'. 

2010

ABB links the Xiangjiaba hydropower plant in southwest China to Shanghai about 2,000 km away with an UHVDC connection with a capacity of ±800 kV and 7,200 MW of power. 

2008

NorNed, the longest submarine HVDC cable in the world at 580 km, links the power networks of Norway and the Netherlands with a transmission capacity of 700 MW. 

2005

ABB delivers electricity through a DC (direct current) link originating 70 km away on land to a gas platform in the North Sea, helping avoid annual emissions of 230,000 tons of CO2 and 230 tons of NOX. 

2002

ABB links the AC networks of South Australia and Victoria with the world’s longest underground transmission. ABB also linked Conneticut and Long Island with the world’s first extruded HVDC submarine transmission.

2000

 ABB delivers world’s first commercial high-voltage shore-to-ship electric power, helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships berthed at the Swedish port of Gothenburg. 

1988

ASEA and BBC merge to form the new company, with headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland. The new group, which started operations on Jan. 5, 1988, had revenues of $17 billion and employed 160,000 people around the world.  

Before the ASEA and BBC merging

ASEA

1986

ASEA employs 71,000 people and reported revenues of $6.8 billion and income after financial items of $370 million. 

1978

ASEA launches one of the first industrial robots. 

1972

ASEA builds the first nuclear power plant in Sweden and goes on to build nine of the country’s 12 reactors. 

1963

ASEA achieves a major technological breakthrough with the introduction of an improved thyristor able to handle substantially more electrical current than existing devices. 

1954

ASEA installs the world’s first HVDC transmission line, providing 20 MW, 100 kV to the Isle of Gotland over a distance of 96 km. 

1953

ASEA is the first company in the world to manufacture synthetic diamonds.

1952

ASEA designs and installs the first 400 kV AC cable – a 70 m low pressure oil-filled (LPOF) cable connecting an underground power station (built to withstand an atomic bomb) to the Swedish grid.

1942

ASEA builds the world's first 120 MVA, 220 kV transformer in the Stockholm Elverks Värtanstation.

1932

ASEA builds the world’s largest self-cooling transformer rated at 2,500 kVA (kilovolt ampere).

1926

ASEA supplies locomotives and power converters for the new Stockholm to Gothenburg railway.

1893

ASEA builds the first three-phase transmission system in Sweden.

1890

Elektriska Aktiebolaget merges with Wenströms & Granströms Elektriska Kraftbolag to form Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget, later shortened to ASEA.

1889

Jonas Wenström invents the three phase system for generators, transformers and motors.

1883

Ludvig Fredholm establishes Elektriska Aktiebolaget in Stockholm as manufacturers of electrical lighting and generators.

BBC

1986

BBC employs 97,000 people and reported revenues of $8.5 billion and an income after financial items of $132 million.

1984

Installation of the first of nine BBC generators in the world’s largest hydroelectric power station at Itaipú in South America.

1978

BBC starts production of bipolar semiconductors at its dedicated Lenzburg semiconductor facility.

1971

BBC builds the most powerful transformer in the world at 1,300 MVA (megavolt ampere).

1969

BBC develops the first gearless cement drive in the world.

1965

BBC builds the first 110 kV GIS (gas-insulated switchgear) allowing circuit breakers to operate safely in a confined space.

1953

The first data transmission at carrier frequency is performed by BBC over a 735 kV high-voltage line to the power station control unit.

1944

BBC develops the first high-speed locomotive with drive shafts fitted exclusively in bogies.

1943

BBC builds the first 110 kV high-speed air blast circuit breaker.

1939

BBC builds the first combustion gas turbine for generating electricity.

1933

BBC obtains the patent for turbine rotors constructed from individual steel disks that are welded together.

1901

BBC builds the first steam turbine in Europe.

1893

BBC supplies Europe’s first large-scale combined heat and power plant producing alternating current.

1891

Charles E. L. Brown and Walter Boveri establish Brown, Boveri & Cie in Baden, Switzerland. Shortly afterward, Brown, Boveri is the first company to transmit high-voltage power.

Pioneering technologies