Around two years ago, a study on SF6 alternatives was commissioned by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. ECOFYS (a company that researches alternative energy concepts) was mandated to conduct the study, alongside ETH Zürich. Since then, two technical discussions have taken place with the participating branches of industry, of which DILO also participated in.

The concluding report on the study was published in May 2018. It was determined that most emissions occur mainly in high-voltage technology (>52 kV), while most of the SF6 is used in medium-voltage switchgear.

It was also realised that the technical possibilities of emission reduction from SF6 in medium-voltage technology are already largely exhausted and that there are already established SF6-free solutions here, such as air, solid or vacuum insulation.

In 2020, a new report is expected for the use of SF6 in medium-voltage switchgear at European level, it will examine again the availability of any potential alternatives. The voluntary commitment of the SF6-using organisations of industry has already led to a decline in SF6 emissions by two thirds from 1997 to 2015.

The recommendation was made to extend this commitment and additionally to introduce monitoring so that the main emission sources can be clearly identified. This could also be aided by the introduction of a central SF6 database with all switchgear.

Large reduction potential is also ascribed to the replacement of old systems. Here, particular attention is being placed on the decommissioning of old systems. According to the study, correct recovery, reuse and, where appropriate, disposal should be improved further, also in view of the rising quantities. The SF6 from the other operating equipment, e.g. transducers, which previously could not be recovered on an economically justifiable basis, should be considered in future.

Specifications or incentives for specific SF6 alternatives are not presented. Rather, they are to be selected based on the aspects of climate relevance, health risks, costs and long-term stability. The future regulations are to be coordinated at European level. It is further recommended that the industry set up a replacement timetable for SF6 and coordinate on it with the political level.

This should ensure that new findings can be taken into account and that the chances of success are thus improved.

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