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T&D Europe challenges results of a NGO-sponsored study on SF6 ban, which could jeopardise the EU, 20/20/20 targets.


11 Jul 2012


Climate & Environment

Brussels, 10th July 2012 - T&D Europe  challenges results of a NGO-sponsored study on SF6 ban, which could jeopardise the EU, 20/20/20 targets.

A group of six leading environmental NGOs has recently issued a press release supporting the outcome of a study published in May 2012 by the Dutch consultancy firm CE Delft on “Abatement cost of SF6 emissions from medium voltage switchgear - Validation of recent studies for the European Commission”. In the press release they assume that “banning the use of SF6 would be an “easy win” for the climate”.

In criticising the hypothesis and the method used in the study  prepared for the European Commission in the framework of the review of Regulation N° 842/2006 on fluorinated greenhouse gases, CE Delft takes a different approach and develops other hypothesis, and comes to a result which contradicts that study. The CE Delft report unfortunately shows a lack of objectivity in the assumptions and the methodology used to compare SF6 switchgear, with SF6 free switchgear, for medium voltage applications.

The major point open to criticism comes from the discussion about the functional unit to use for the comparison, leading CE Delft derive an incorrect conclusion.

To come to the incorrect conclusion that abatement cost is in the range of -40€ to 0€ per tCO2 eq., CE Delft initially goes wrong through their restrictive approach of the functional unit used for the comparison. 

Use of any type of switchgear with voltage below 25 kV does not respect the prerequisites for conducting an abatement cost study, and results in comparison of equipment not having the same functionalities for the customers in terms of compactness, robustness to environmental conditions, level of maintenance and safety aspects.

Today, approved methodologies are laid down in international LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) and EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) community (ISO standards 14025, -40, -44). These methodologies have also been adopted by the European Commission as building blocks in Europe 2020 for the purpose of comparing alternative solutions for best environmental performances, and will be promoted in the EU “Product Environmental Footprint Guide”.

Another misleading aspect of the CE Delft study is the systematic exaggeration in many figures concerning leakages or in other assumptions, which might be caused by a reference to too old figures for leakages.

Today, state of the art manufactured products are the rule in Europe from gas synthesis, transportation, equipment manufacturing process and end of life, achieving very low emissions in all these phases, on the lowest part of emission bandwidth, that should be taken in account for the calculation. Moreover, improvements are regularly made and reflected in international standards revisions (IEC 62271-303) and CIGRE  studies.

Finally, one point is often missing, is the closed cycle concept. When MV switchgear is reaching its end of life, it is not the end of life of SF6 contained therein. SF6 is recovered, returned to the gas producer or distributor and reprocessed for reuse. A total of 98% of returned SF6 is finally reusable in new SF6 containing switchgear, the small proportion that cannot be reused being incinerated.

Thus, for these reasons, T&D Europe disputes the conclusions made in the CE Delft study, based on insufficient proper methodology and on hypothesis and assumptions not corresponding to the reality of the current medium voltage applications and customer requirements and expectations.

But, as insisted Bertrand Hugoo, Vice President of T&D Europe and Chairman of its Executive Committee, “more importantly, implementing these conclusions, far from being an “easy win” for the environment, would severely jeopardise the on-going modernisation of the EU electricity grid, which is widely recognised as a key building block for the completion of the EU 20/20/20 targets”.

1 T&D Europe ( is the European Association of the Electricity Transmission & Distribution Equipment and Services Industry, which members are the European National Associations representing the interests of the electricity transmission and distribution equipments manufacturing and derived solutions. The companies represented by T&D Europe account for a production worth over € 25 billion EUR, and employ over 200,000 people in Europe.


3 CIGRE, the Council on large electric systems, is an international non-profit association promoting international collaboration between experts to improve electric power systems.