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10 reasons to upgrade your business’ HV electrical infrastructure

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With the energy transition getting into its stride and costs increasing, upgrading electrical infrastructure to more efficient, modern, alternatives has tangible business benefits. Vattenfall Network Solutions maps out the top 10 reasons to make the switch.

1. Living on borrowed time

HV Switchgear generally has a design life expectancy of 25-30 years. As equipment becomes older, the probability of failure becomes greater due to the electrical stress under which it operates. All HV electrical infrastructure is subjected to constant low level partial discharges, which have a weakening or a corroding like effect on the equipment which grows over time, until it fails. It’s not a matter of if – but when.

2. An electric future

The switch to large-scale electrification is gaining pace in many industries. Rapid uptake of renewable energy, coupled with expectations for new demand from electrification, means businesses need to ensure their infrastructure is more decentralised while supplying substantially more power. Those operating commercial transport, for example, must plan for an electrical future, and assess the infrastructure upgrades needed to recharge EV fleets. In most cases, a fundamental upgrade will be needed to deliver for increased power demands.

3. Cutting energy consumption

HV infrastructure is often overlooked by businesses in terms of energy consumption. However, the European Commission estimates that 2.9% of all energy generated across the EU and the UK is wasted through transformer losses. Modern transformers, meanwhile, adhere to the Euro Tier 2 directive 548/2014, meaning they offer significant reductions in losses compared to older units.

4. Ready-to-go replacements

Parts for outdated infrastructure are often no longer manufactured, or the manufacturers no longer exist. In the unavoidable instance where outdated equipment eventually breaks down or malfunctions, there are no spare parts to replace them. Upgraded, more advanced infrastructure equipment is readily available on the market in large stock, and suppliers will often hold modern high voltage parts such as switchgear and ring main units in stock – alleviating delays, lead time, and cost of downtime.

5. Ditching downtime

Long-term stress failures (called disruptive discharges) result in arcing faults, which cause short circuits between phases and earth. Under normal operation, all HV electrical infrastructure is subjected to constant low level partial discharges, which have a weakening or a corroding like effect on the equipment, which grows over time until it fails. Such failures are usually catastrophic resulting in prolonged power outages – critically impacting production. Modern equipment is highly unlikely to fail, but if it does, downtime will be a fraction of that for old gear.

6. Safe by design

Overpressures in outdated equipment can result in an electrical arc that exceeds 22,000°C – hotter than the surface of the sun. Air expands at a rapid rate and can lead to the equipment exploding, and the release of super-hot gas and flames. Mineral oil based equipment exasperates this issue greatly. Modern equipment is designed and tested to be able to withstand internal arcing faults and to minimise the risk to personnel and property in the event of an internal fault.

7. Responsibility and liability

Owners of HV infrastructure have a legal responsibility to protect workers within the vicinity of HV equipment, and those seen to have been neglectful in their approach to safety can end up with fines, or even jail time. Upgrading to a more reliable, safer alternative is in everyone’s best interest – not only operators and personnel, but also the duty holders.

8. Pure cost savings

As energy prices soar throughout Europe, so does the demand to find more cost efficient energy sources. Upgrading 30 plus year old transformers will usually see an ROI in three to five years, after which it’s pure savings. Committing to the upgraded infrastructure may bring upfront costs, but having equipment that uses less energy to run will invariably save businesses more money in the long run through lower energy bills.

9. Green and clean

Many old switchgears are often filled with oil and contain sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), listed by the EPA as one of the most potent greenhouse gases known. Oil was designed out of switchgear decades ago, and today’s modern switchgear is seeing the phasing out of SF6 gas for green alternatives, whilst at the same time manufacturers have embraced more sustainable, cleaner supply chains.

10. Reputation at stake

Global demand for sustainable practices increasing, meaning sustainability has now become mission critical for businesses. Those who aren’t viewed as taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint are at risk of being left behind. By upgrading HV infrastructure, businesses can demonstrate their commitment to sustainable practices, which will in turn increase consumer retention, and enhance a company’s reputation in our environmentally conscious world.


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