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Guidelines and assessment methods for end users to estimate, quantify and challenge climate change and ecological impacts of medium- and high-voltage switchgear


In the worldwide effort to limit global warming, the energy transmission and distribution system
operators and switchgear manufacturers have been actively looking for medium- and high-voltage
switchgear with a lower climate change impact. The first step of this process is the removal of SF6, the
most potent greenhouse gas (GHG), whose complete removal in switchgear will need many years,
especially for the highest voltage and short-circuit ratings.
However, even SF6-free equipment has a non-negligible impact on the environment, including on the
climate change, which users will need to consider to minimize their carbon footprint.
This paper investigates common assessment methods of the environmental impact of a switchgear, to
objectively estimate their carbon footprint in a way that can be used by grid operators at any step of a
project, from within public tender phases to complete system wide LCA studies. It goes through GWP,
LCA, and simplified estimations results and clarifies their scope, forces, and weaknesses, including the
notion of time and avoiding greenwashing arguments. By involving different customers, specialists,
and manufacturers, the comparison aims for fairness and mentions uncertainties and limits of the study.
It especially includes the feedback from two major European utilities, RTE and Stedin, which had
different approaches to include environmental assessments in their strategy and decisions. Some key
takeaways are presented along guidelines for accurate and comparable environmental assessments.
This work can only be the starting point of a renewed way to account for ecological impact of medium
and high voltage switchgear. The paper ends with an open conclusion, inviting more scientific work to
define the path to the low-carbon switchgear of tomorrow






  • Maxime Perret
  • Thomas Berteloot
  • Nina Sasaki Støa-Aanensen
  • Michaël Inversin
  • Anne Rønning
  • Irmeline de Sadeleer
  • Peter Hovestad
  • Martin Kristoffersen


  • Switzerland
  • France
  • SINTEF Energy Research / Elkraftteknologi
  • NORSUS: Norwegian Institute for Sustainability Research
  • Netherlands
  • ABB AS




CIGRE (Conseil international des grands réseaux électriques)


Colloquium papers - Joint CIGRE SC B3 & A3 Colloquium, Brimingham, UK, 9-12 May, 2023



View this publication at Cristin