Features

Insulation testing is one of the most critical electrical safety tests undertaken during the manufacturing process. Stewart Haile, business manager at electrical safety testing specialists Clare Instruments, provides a guide to the test, which is an essential part of most UK, European and International Standards

Insulation testing is often seen as the third ‘core' test and would usually be preceded by an earth bond and a flash test. But what exactly is an insulation test?

The insulation test performs a measurement of the resistance of a product's insulation protection by applying a DC voltage between phase and neutral to the earth conductor for Class I equipment; and between phase and neutral to the outer case for Class II equipment. The test results in a reading of resistance measured in M ohms.

So why is it necessary to carry out the test? The test is designed to ensure that protective insulation is sufficient good enough to form a barrier to make sure that electricity does not come into contact with a user causing harm or to ensure that other manufacturing systems and machinery are not adversely affected. 

In the manufacturing environment, the advent of legalisation such as the Low Voltage Directive (LVD) requires evidence of due diligence and the results of this and other tests can be used in this respect. The same can be said of in-service testing too.

Testing conditions
The test can be applied to both Class I and Class II equipment. The test should be carried out using probes or insulated clips, and without the equipment being connected to a power supply. Test voltages vary between standards - although 500V DC is the most common application - and the voltage is applied for a maximum of three seconds.

However, there are exceptions. Clare has designed test equipment for supplying up to 1000V (e.g. automotive industry ignitions), where greater protection is called for.  Equipment has also been supplied with voltage as low as 100V (e.g. motor industry switches), where higher voltages would cause potential damage.

In general, pass/fault limits for Class I equipment is a resistance greater than 2M ohms and for Class II equipment is a resistance greater than 7 M ohms.

On first examination, both insulation tests and flash/hipot tests are often seen as very similar. However, there are fundamental differences - flash testing is designed to detect gaps or clearance between conductive parts and earth, pin holes in insulation and other degradation that may be the result of production processes and/or wear and tear, while insulation resistance testing is designed to provide a quantitative measurement of the quality of insulation. 

If a wire was positioned 1/2mm from exposed metal, an insulation test - conducted in dry air - could well provide a pass reading.  However, a flash test is more likely to detect this situation as dangerous. 

Similarly, if insulation is somehow contaminated a flash test would produce a pass, but an insulation test would highlight the deficiency. For example, the normal minimum insulation resistance value for Class I appliances is 2 M ohm but with a 1500V AC flash test, the current would be 0.75mA and would not be detected by the 5mA trip, which has to accommodate the capacitive losses that occur. 

Obviously a DC flash test with a leakage metre can provide insulation resistance monitoring, as the capacitive component is levelled out after the initial ‘switch-on' surge.

Production line testing
The test time of 2-3 seconds does not generally pose a problem on the production line; rather it's the practicalities that need to be addressed. For example, the use of a conductive foam nest can aid the testing of Class II products, and this nest can be integrated with test enclosures and probes.

Typical causes of insulation test failure include poor quality insulating materials, material that has been over-stressed either mechanically or electrically, poor maintenance and cleaning procedures, ingress of fluids, dust etc and assembly faults. In summary, it's clear that those responsible for testing need to carefully consider what best suits their own particular needs and circumstances. They should then choose the right test instrument/test fixture with the versatility to enable them to carry out the most appropriate type of test at any required time.

With ambitious legislative targets for commercial properties to be carbon neutral by 2019, businesses are beginning to implement green programmes in a bid to reduce their carbon emissions. However, while basic green initiatives, such as recycling, can have a positive impact on a business' carbon footprint, they don't go far enough. Only a sustainable building, designed to limit a building's energy consumption, can effectively reduce a business' long-term impact on the local and wider environment. Rajesh Sinha, technical director at NG Bailey investigates

Buildings accounted for 40% of the total energy consumed in Western Europe in 2006. To achieve a truly sustainable building, it is necessary to converge both the physical and digital infrastructures. By having a building management system (BMS) in place, companies can combine both of these layers, automatically reducing up to 70% of a building's energy use. As a result, organisations can make rapid strides towards meeting governmental targets, while also reducing the building's operational costs. 

What is a building management system?
A building management system is a computer-based system that controls and monitors a building's mechanical and electrical equipment, including air handling and cooling plant systems, lighting, power systems, fire and security systems. With a BMS in place, a building can limit and regulate its own environmental impact, with minimal human intervention, through automated monitoring and control of services such as lighting, heating and ventilation. For instance, with a BMS connected to motion detectors, lights can automatically switch on and off when an area is needed or becomes vacant. Likewise, if a window in a room is opened, the heating and air conditioning units automatically stop working until the window has been closed.

By continuously monitoring external temperatures and wind conditions, the BMS can automatically select the most appropriate source of renewable energy based on external factors. There are a whole host of energy scavenger devices already on the market that can be easily controlled with a BMS, including ground source heat pumps, solar panels and cells and thermoelectric generators.

With a BMS, companies can also add additional services to the existing network. For instance, access control systems can easily be installed to monitor staff access throughout the building. Furthermore, companies can take advantage of IP telephony, cashless vending machines and central control of fire systems.

Building the foundations for a BMS
For a BMS to be capable of controlling both the mechanical and electrical elements of a building, it needs to be based on open source protocols that allow systems, both electrical and mechanical, to ‘talk' to each other.

Many construction firms already weave IP-based networks into the physical building infrastructure itself - providing the foundations and scalability required for a BMS. However, many within the industry are failing to account for the crucial need for open standards and instead, are opting for proprietary technology when incorporating an IT infrastructure into a building.

While proprietary networks can suit business' IT requirements, they do little in terms of providing the scalable, robust foundations required for a sustainable building. This is because the key to sustainable buildings, open source technology, allows disparate mechanical and electrical elements of a building to automatically communicate and share information. The alternative, proprietary IP networks, severely hampers the ability to link both the physical and digital elements of a building and will ultimately fail to generate any real financial and environmental benefits.  

Solais House, a showcase of what's possible
Opened on 4 September 2008, Solais House is a good example of the concept of sustainable buildings. Constructed as the new headquarters for NG Bailey, Solais House is believed to have received Scotland's first Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), with a coveted ‘A' rate standard.

Integral to its success as a sustainable building, is a BMS that continuously monitors external temperatures to automatically select the most appropriate source of renewable energy from surrounding scavenger devices, including solar panels, ground source heat pumps and solar thermal collectors.

Lights, air-conditioning and heating units are also connected to the BMS, ensuring that energy is not wasted when areas of the building are left empty. Other features include natural ventilation, motorised opening windows and mid-pane blinds to reduce the need for energy-intensive cooling systems. Rainwater harvesting is also integrated with a sustainable urban drainage system for irrigation and WC flushing.

According to Richard Lambert, director general of the CBI, "This building is a wonderfully vivid statement of confidence in the future, and a fine example of the ingenuity and innovation." As Solais House is one of the first buildings of its kind, there is limited information available to calculate exact ROI figures. However, using its current whole life costing exercise (http://www.bre.co.uk/index.jsp), from the BRE Trust of Companies, it can be determined that NG Bailey will save approximately £3m over the lifetime of the building - with a reduced carbon footprint of up to 95 per cent. The result is a building that is predicted to have an annual emission rate of 13.3kg of CO²m², giving it a BREEAM ‘Excellent' rating in addition to its EPC certificate of Grade A.

As Solais House demonstrates, achieving a sustainable business requires more than simply investing in superficial green initiatives. Companies, of all sizes and industries, will soon be required to prove sustainable claims, particularly against a backdrop of green legislation. Add to the equation the soaring cost of energy, having a sustainable building, geared around eliminating waste throughout its lifecycle, can help companies make genuine progress towards keeping costs down. However, before this can become a reality, integrating both the physical and digital is paramount in delivering on the vision of a sustainable building.

Rockwell Automation has worked with Proplas International to help Europe's leading supplier of rigid plastic packaging to reduce its energy costs by £71,000 a year, with a payback period estimated at just 14 months

ONE?OF Europe's leading suppliers of rigid plastic packaging is reaping the benefits of an energy saving retrofit on 13 injection-stretch-blow moulding machines. Engineering services provider Proplas International fitted 13 of the packaging specialist's PET bottle and jar moulding machines with Rockwell Automation's Allen-Bradley PowerFlex700 variable speed drives, helping to reduce energy consumption by over 27 percent.

From its base in Burnley, Lancashire, Proplas International has built a reputation for helping industries to become more efficient - something which all companies will recognise as being vital in today's increasingly competitive market place. Amongst other areas, the company has become widely known for its energy saving projects, with a particular focus in injection moulding machines of all types where Proplas is a recognised leader in saving energy.
In a recent project, Proplas fitted Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 700 drives to 13 injection-stretch-blow-moulding machines at Europe's leading supplier of rigid plastic packaging. The machines produce a range of bottles and wide-mouth jars in Polyethylene-Terephthalate (PET) for the food and drinks industry - containers that are used by a range of industry-leading manufacturers as well as by various supermarkets for their own-brand food and drink products.

The injection-stretch-blow-moulding process is used because of its capability to produce high quality containers. In the process, molten polymer first flows into the injection cavity to produce the desired preform shape. A period of conditioning at a set temperature follows, after which the preform is ready for stretching and blowing into the finished shape. The preform is transferred to the blowmould area, and the mould closes. A stretch rod is introduced to stretch the preform lengthways, whilst differential air pressure is used to blow the preform out to the shape of the mould. Finally, after a set cooling time, the mould opens and the finished container is removed. In practice, the four stages are carried out concurrently with a revolving carousel of moulds.

Proplas director Stephen Anderson comments: "The machines were being driven by hydraulic pumps, with their motors set at a constant speed that would cater for the maximum hydraulic demand - the periods in the process where the moulds are opening and closing. But this is an inefficient process, since the energy usage remains constant (and high) while the actual power demand varies."

The Proplas solution was to fit variable speed drives to the pump motors, operating at two preset speeds - a higher speed during the maximum hydraulic demand when the moulds are opening and closing, and a lower speed during the periods of reduced demand.

"We performed a number of tests with the company to demonstrate the potential, and convinced them that there could be major energy reductions and associated cost savings," said Anderson. "As a result, we were asked to retrofit a drives solution to 13 of the company's injection-stretch-blow-mould machines."

The retrofit was built around 13 Allen-Bradley PowerFlex 700 drives, with each drive connected to an Allen-Bradley Pico micro PLC to provide the simple sequencing logic.

"The available torque was a key issue in this application, because the profile is characterised by spikes in the torque demand that can cause many other drives to trip," says Anderson. "The PowerFlex drives delivered the same torque in the actual application that was promised on the datasheet, and in this case that capability allowed us to downsize to a lower power product without any fear of it tripping out or the motor stalling, helping deliver further energy savings for the customer."

For the customer, all this has meant some substantial energy savings. The power usage of each machine before the modification was 40kW, but with the help of the drives retrofit this has been reduced by 11kW. With every kilowatt equating to around £500 in energy costs, the project is estimated to be saving the customer over £5000 on every machine, with an estimated payback period of just 14 months.

The wiring-harness architecture found in trucks, buses and other vehicles with electrical systems based on 24V technology has undergone considerable change as electrical and electronic content has increased. Conventional functions, such as the HVAC (heating, ventilating and air conditioning) system, continue to be converted to electronic control while many new features, such as GPS (global positioning systems) and entertainment systems, are being added to the electrical load. in the first of a two-part feature, Guillemette Paour of Tyco Electronics' Raychem circuit protection products explains

Today, an increasing number of manufacturers rely on a hierarchal, or distributed, architecture that allows for the use of smaller wires and relays, resulting in cost savings for material and fuel. However, protecting a vehicle's harness system can impose additional design constraints, due to issues related to circuit protection device placement.

One solution is to use PPTC (polymeric positive temperature coefficient) devices to help optimize harness designs. These devices lend themselves for use in junction boxes using circuit boards or IDC (Insulation Displacement Connector) wired busses. Recently, new PPTC designs have been developed to help provide resettable overcurrent protection and increased design flexibility for bus and truck wire harnesses utilizing 24V electrical systems. Tyco Electronics' new 32V through-hole PolySwitch devices, featuring operating temperatures from -40°C to 125°C and current ratings from 0.5A to 10A, permit device placement in both the vehicle's passenger and engine compartments.

Automotive Harness Architecture
An optimised vehicle harness architecture uses a hierarchal structure resembling that of a tree, with its main power trunks dividing into smaller and smaller branches that use overcurrent protection at each node. Because a hierarchal architecture can use smaller wires and relays on its ‘smaller branches', the resulting harness is smaller and lighter, resulting in a cost savings - both in materials and fuel consumption. In addition, a hierarchal or distributed architecture can help provide system protection together with fault isolation, thereby reducing warranty costs and improving customer satisfaction.

Fig. 1 shows a simplified version of a partially distributed architecture with each junction box either directly feeding a module or feeding another nodal module which supplies peripheral loads. Unfortunately, the sheer number of circuits found in today's vehicles has made the optimized system hard to realize in practice. With many tens of circuits emanating from the primary power distribution center, it has become almost impossible to position all the subsequent junction boxes so that they are readily accessible and close to the electronics they are intended to feed.

As a result of these difficulties, system designers have resorted to harness design solutions that negate some of the desired end-benefits, such as: (1) sacrificing wire size optimization and fault isolation by combining loads into one circuit; (2) locating electrical centers where they are only accessible by trained service personnel, at increased cost; and (3) routing back and forth between various functional systems, increasing wiring length, size and cost. For example, due to the necessity for fuse accessibility, a conventional door module would have separate power feeds for windows, locks, LEDs (light emitting diodes) and mirror functions, each protected by a separate fuse in the junction box.
 
Resettable PPTC Devices Help Optimize Harness Designs
A resettable circuit protection design that does not need to be driver accessible offers a number of solutions that can be used separately or in combination to optimise harness designs. For example, a single junction box located in the instrument panel can still be employed, but rather than positioning the PPTC devices close to the conventional fuses on the front panel, they can be placed inside the box, close to the connectors or on the bottom face of the box. This saves frontal area as well as helps to reduce the box's volume.

By incorporating resettable PPTC devices in the door module itself, a single power feed can be used. This helps save wire and reduces cost and size of the junction box. Fig. 3 illustrates yet another advantage of replacing conventional fuses with resettable PPTC devices. Indeed, using a PPTC device in a dedicated manner (delocalized or not) can allow wire and relay downsizing, thus reducing cost, space and weight. The through-hole PPTC devices lend themselves for use in boxes using circuit boards or IDC wired busses. Since there is no need for fuse holders, there is added design and assembly flexibility. An added feature of PPTC devices is their availability in lower current ratings than conventional fuses, which can make them more appropriate for use in protecting command functions. Moreover, PPTC devices offer smaller increments in current ratings, allowing for the selection of a device with characteristics that can be more closely matched to the actual application current. In addition, cost savings are possible through use of automated pick-and-place assembly technology.

To enhance optimization, several electrical centers can be divided into smaller units and relocated around the vehicle instead of using one large junction box. With the availability of resettable circuit protection devices and reliable relays, modules can switch and protect their own output loads. They also can be positioned without consideration for user access.

Commercial and public sector buildings waste huge amounts of energy through inefficiency.  According to the Carbon Trust, non-residential buildings are responsible for nearly a fifth of the UK's carbon emissions. As energy prices continue on their upward trajectory and the financial and social implications of man-made climate change become clearer, the drive towards reducing energy consumption has become mainstream. The issue is no longer one confined to eco-warriors or penny-pinching bean counters. Instead it is a vital consideration for all businesses. Gary francies from VDA explains

Nowhere is this more evident than in the commercial property and construction sectors. Building operators face considerable pressure to reduce the carbon emissions across their portfolio. At the same time builders, architects and specifiers are facing new legislation to ensure that new-builds have strong ‘green' credentials.

That means installing double glazing and cavity wall insulation is now standard, and widely expected by purchasers or lessees. Indeed, triple glazing is the minimum requirement to be considered green today. Asset owners, contractors and architects must step up their environmentally friendly game to keep ahead with directives and regulations at a local and national level - the latest of which is legislation that requires buildings to be energy rated. At a time when every cost area is the subject of extensive due diligence, the lower the building's environmental impact - and hence its energy consumption - the higher its perceived value.

Naturally, new builds present greater opportunities for minimising future energy consumption. Contractors and architects can use the latest in environmentally friendly materials, from high-performance, low emissivity glass that has a heat reflective coating to keep internal heat in and external heat out, to air locks on vehicular access doors that prevent heat loss from these large openings in the walls.

But as the bricks and mortar of the building become more energy efficient, owners can turn their attention to the way a building's occupiers will manage energy use from day to day. The emphasis here shifts from building design to building use, and the role of energy management facilities to bring overall consumption into line with actual need.
Because the fact remains that regardless of the efficiency of a building's inherent structure, the people using it will still be the major source of excessive consumption. Providing occupiers with the ability to control and monitor their immediate environment is therefore as important as selecting the initial construction materials and HVAC systems. Building management systems (BMS) that monitor and control services such as heating, lighting and air conditioning, can ensure that the building functions at optimum levels of efficiency and economy.

These systems facilitate the management of energy in a building down to a micro level and can deliver significant savings to the occupier's bottom line. In fact, BMSs have been proven to save significant amounts of energy and money. Take an average office block as an example. Each room consumes energy worth between £3.10 and £4.30 each day, based on current prices and average energy use. A BMS could save up to 15% of that energy. That represents a saving of approximately 50 pence per room per day, or more than £180 per room per year, which equates to almost £36,000 for a 200-room office block. Added to other energy saving facilities, this presents as a significant sales or letting incentive.

This level of savings is derived from three major areas: air conditioning, heating and lighting - which are the biggest sources of waste in serviced buildings like offices and hotels. Temperature regulation in particular is a major drain on energy resources. It is not unknown for office staff to turn up the air conditioning in summer, or heating in winter and then forget about it while opening a window - thus rendering it inefficient at best and useless at worst. It's also fairly common for heating or air conditioning to be left on overnight, in error. Similarly, lighting in buildings is often inefficient, with unoccupied, lit conference rooms, meeting spaces and corridor lights left on all night burning up the occupier's profits as well as carbon.

This is where the micro-management offered in buildings specified with a BMS can really help with efficiency. A BMS can intelligently control all aspects of energy use from a central computer, and allows facilities managers to manage individual rooms and communal areas from a single position. Alert sensors inform the computer of a piece of equipment's current use. If the unit is on when it shouldn't be - or vice versa -  override switches automatically switch it on or off as necessary.

A BMS can allow building users to give any room in a building its own independent profile for every hour of every day - whether it's an office, a hotel room, a classroom or a bedroom in a nursing home. Lighting and heating can be pre-set, depending on both the occupancy of a room and the specific requirements of those using it.

It also allows the building's users to optimise its boilers, depending on the occupancy rate: if the hotel or office complex is only 80% full a BMS can set the boilers accordingly. This eliminates the costs associated with making inaccurate guesses or estimates on the appropriate settings - an unavoidable part of manually setting the controls.
Advanced BMSs are also intelligent enough to increase the ambient temperature to the desired comfort level. For instance, if the room occupants wish to keep the room at 21?C in the morning but 23?C in the afternoon the BMS can adjust the heating, air conditioning or fan speed accordingly. It can also be programmed to select automatically the most energy-efficient method of making the necessary adjustment.

The system will also counteract inefficient human behaviour. Monitors can be applied to the windows, which will inform the BMS when they have been opened or closed. The BMS will then adjust the heating or ventilation system accordingly.

The BMS can be programmed to switch lights off when the last person leaves a room so that none are left on overnight. When a room or even an entire floor has been locked up for the day the BMS can close down the entire unit once the last person leaves.

However, perhaps the most powerful function of the BMS is the high level of reporting facilities. They allow users automatically to monitor and record energy usage over a sustained period of time. Using this data, building operators can assess where the most energy is used and when reductions can be made, and put long-term reduction programmes in place. In addition, the cumulative historical energy use data can become a vital input into accounting and budgeting processes, increasing the accuracy of cash flow forecasts.
BMS systems need not be costly additions to a building's specification. A correctly deployed BMS can be run through any structured low voltage cabling, including  Cat5e or Cat6, which keeps installation costs low and eliminates the need for special hazard certificates that are needed for high voltage applications.

It is not just energy costs that make a BMS worthwhile. These kind of advanced systems result in better management of electrical items which reduces wear and tear on components and hence ongoing maintenance costs. For example, if a BMS reduces the need for air conditioning by 35% - the life of the air conditioning motor will be lengthened accordingly. The same can be said for light bulbs, PC monitors and heating elements.

In addition to facilitating the management of a user's immediate environment, advanced systems can assist in the protection of a building by controlling automatic lighting and using movement sensors to alert security guards to unauthorised movements. They also provide secure key locking technologies into which different levels of clearance can be built. These easy-to-implement additions to a BMS can also help lower the building's insurance premiums.
For all these reasons, the presence of a BMS is likely to enhance the sale or letting potential of any building. Energy has historically been relatively cheap, forming only a small component of most organisations' overall costs. But rising gas, oil and electricity costs, coupled with growing evidence of the damage carbon dioxide does to our environment, plus the strict guidelines on new-build carbon emissions that form the European Directive on Buildings, are making  it easier to see why more and more businesses are looking for low-energy solutions.
The real advantage of a BMS, therefore, is that it is also likely to engender strong, long-term and more profitable relationships between the original asset owner and subsequent purchaser or lessee. As legislation on building standards becomes more onerous, and stricter standards prevail, cost-effective, non-disruptive, energy-efficient measures will become more attractive.

VDA can provide a complete BMS system along with its energy management solution. Visit www.vdauk.net for a demo.

At the present time, orders for sub-distribution boards to be used in commercial premises only rarely include provision for metering, says Colin McAhren of Moeller Electric. He believes, however, that this situation is going to change dramatically in the very near future

It seems a very long time ago technical publications, including this very magazine, were full of articles announcing the introduction of Part L2 of the Building Regulations and explaining how this would lead to big changes in electrical distribution systems, particularly in relation to sub-metering. In fact, it was a long time ago: the year was 2006 and the final sections of Part L2 came into effect in October of that year.

Surely then, with a full two years gone by, compliance with the provisions of Part L2 has become routine? Unfortunately, it hasn't. In particular, Part L2, as we shall see in more detail later, contains provisions that mean almost all distribution boards used in commercial electrical installations should include sub-metering. But they don't.

How do I know? The answer is very simple. Moeller Electric is a major supplier of electrical distribution equipment and much of it is very clearly destined for non-domestic use. Not many Type B boards, for example, are used in the average home.

Surprisingly then, most of the orders we receive don't include any mention of sub-metering. In addition, we offer retrofit sub-metering solutions, and demand for these is also much lower than might reasonably be expected. Sub-metering is simply being neglected.
Before discussing why this is, let's rewind a little and refresh our memories as to why Part L2 was introduced and what it means in terms of electrical distribution systems. The first question is easily answered. Part L2 was introduced to help reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings, thereby protecting the environment and, incidentally, saving money for those that pay the energy bills for those buildings.

It seeks to achieve this by requiring property owners and tenants to have access to accurate and detailed information about their energy usage. An overall usage figure is not sufficient to meet this requirement; the information must be split between various types of energy usage.

In fact, Part L2 requires building occupiers to be able to account in detail for at least 90% of their energy usage for each type of fuel used, and that includes electricity. They must be able to say, for example, how much of the fuel is used for lighting, for heating, for air conditioning and so on.

The provisions apply to all new premises with floor areas of 500m2, and they also apply to existing premises when substantial modifications are made. This is usually interpreted as meaning modifications that need Building Regulations approval. In other words, they apply to almost all premises where new distribution boards are going to be fitted!

Now let's have a look at the implications for those distribution boards. As it is necessary to account for electricity usage separately for lighting, heating, etc., it's not hard to see that the overall metering installed by the electrical utility company is totally inadequate to meet the requirements of Part L2. What's needed is separate sub-metering for each type of load.
This is made even more clear in the regulations by explicit requirements for separate metering of certain load types. These include, for example, boiler installations rated 50 kW or more, chillers rated 20 kW or more and motor control centres feeding pump or fan loads with a total rating of 10 kW or more.

Perhaps the most important of these explicitly mentioned requirements, however, is final electricity distribution boards with loads totalling 50 kW or more. Most Type B boards exceed this figure when fully loaded, so Part L2 indicates strongly that feeds to almost all final distribution boards should be separately metered.

The upshot of what we've discussed so far is that distribution boards without sub-metering should be very much in the minority but, as we've already seen, exactly the opposite is true at the present time.

Why is this? That's not an easy question to answer, but the most probable explanation is that omitting the metering minimises the first cost of an installation, something which is always given a high priority by specifiers, even if the supposed economies lead to higher expenditure during the life of the building.

It must also be true that building inspectors are currently less than rigorous in their insistence on the provisions of Part L2 being met, possibly because they've seen so very few installations where sub-metering is correctly implemented.

Anyone, whether they're a contractor or a specifier, who is feeling a little complacent at this point about how easy it is to neglect Part L2 requirements should prepare themselves for something of a shock. Just when you thought it was safe to assume Part L2 was toothless, the rather sharper-toothed Energy Certificate for Buildings (ECB) has appeared on the scene!

From October 2008, it is a condition of selling or leasing commercial property that the landlord or vendor should supply an ECB. Rather like the ratings schemes for things like domestic freezers, ECBs give a rating for the energy performance of the building.
Buildings with poor energy ratings are likely to prove something of a liability, as would-be purchasers or tenants will have an all-too-clear indication that they'll be spending a lot of money on energy, and that they may well have to spend even more money somewhere down the road to improve the energy performance of their building.

But what has all this got to do with Part L2 of the Building Regulations in general, and with sub-metering in particular? The answer is that in buildings without proper sub-metering provisions, as prescribed by Part L2, it will be difficult, if not impossible to demonstrate good energy performance. It won't be at all surprising if the independent government-approved inspectors who issue ECBs take a very dim view of this, and give the building a poor energy rating.

So there it is - no sub-metering is likely to lead to a not-so-good ECB. And a not-so-good ECB will make a building hard to sell or let. It's not hard to see that the end result is going to be a big upsurge in interest in Part L2, and a big increase in demand for sub-metering, both for new and existing installations.

Let's now look at how this demand can best be satisfied. The most convenient place to provide sub-metering is undoubtedly at the distribution board. It is important, therefore, that any boards used should make provision for the fitting of meters.

In many cases this provision will be in the form of a meter box, and contractors in particular will need to give careful consideration to how easy this is to install, and whether it offers space for fitting any CTs that many need to be used in conjunction with the meters.
It's also important that the appearance of the meter box complements that of the rest of the distribution equipment - today's customers are unlikely to be happy with metering provisions that look like a bolt-on afterthought, even if that's exactly what they are.

One way to meet the need for monitoring energy usage separately for each type of load is to fit meters to all outgoing circuits. This is, however, an expensive and often inconvenient approach, particularly in simpler applications. In such cases, a better and more cost-effective solution is the use of split-load boards.

While usually having a single incomer, boards of this type group the outgoing circuits for lighting and power loads separately. This makes it easy to provide separate energy monitoring for each type of load with just two meters. Suitability for use in split-load configurations is, therefore, an important factor to consider when choosing distribution boards.

Some manufacturers, including Moeller Electric, have taken the growing need for sub-metering into account right from the earliest design stages of their latest distribution products. The result is complete ranges of products that make it easy to fit comprehensive metering, whether this is done during the assembly of the board, or as a retrofit operation on site.

Boards of this type have, for example, adequate room for the internal addition of CTs without them having to be crammed into inconvenient and inaccessible locations such as cableways.

The best products even allow meters to be added without the need for external meter boxes. With Moeller Electric's XEnergy modular distribution switchboards, for example, all that's needed is to replace the plain enclosure door with one that's fitted with a metering and display unit. This can be done easily, quickly and inexpensively either in the workshop or on site.

Unfortunately for the environment, and for occupiers of commercial buildings who are denied the information they need to optimise their energy usage, sub-metering in electrical distribution systems is currently the exception rather than the rule.

This regrettable situation must change, and it looks as if the introduction of ECBs is going to be the driving force to bring this change about. For contractors and specifiers, therefore, now is the time to dust off Part L2 of the Building Regulations and look at it again with renewed focus and interest!

This month a robot bartender was unveiled at the Bullring in Birmingham. Its makers claim it has numerous benefits over human bar staff - not only does it not have to be paid even the pitiful wages of the service sector, it doesn't take toilet breaks, never complains and is always polite and courteous to customers. All of which made Open Circuit wonder: how might robots prove useful in other roles in life?

The robot boss
Part of the appeal of robots is that they can be programmed to behave in a logical, consistent way - unlike many of the UK's bosses, who exhibit bizarre character traits ranging from unwarranted megalomania to an inability to express themselves in anything other than drivelling management-speak. Thus the robot boss would NOT:

  • Say things like: "It's time to action the blue skies thinking 110%, or we'll be up to our elbows in alligators!"
  • Base all their professional decisions on completely arbitrary factors, eg. whether the female person they're dealing with is wearing a tight top.

• Triumphantly proclaim "Revenues are up 50%!" while neglecting to mention that the company is making hideous losses*.

 

The robot dad
Even the most loving parent sometimes needs time off from their kids, and as such a robot dad would be a godsend for harassed dads everywhere (not to mention being a rather more reliable substitute for feckless absent fathers). A robot dad would use exactly the same vital parenting skills as real dads, such as:
Somehow finding the least interesting destinations imaginable for family days out, eg. the Warwick Museum of Snuff Boxes
Endlessly reminding children that young people today have got it easy, as though their own childhood would have made Oliver Twist - or indeed Anne Frank - count their lucky stars
Telling the same unfunny ‘joke' at any and every opportunity (eg. "If it wasn't for Venetian blinds, it'd be curtains for us all!")

Personal answering service robot
Arguably the greatest strength of robots is that they can endure harsh and brutal conditions uncomplainingly, something that would make them ideal for dealing with time wasting phone calls. The personal answering service robot would politely field such tedious calls as:
The telesales halfwit who seems to believe that after a hard day's work there's nothing you'd like to do more than let your dinner go cold while you discuss changing electricity supplier at 8.40pm.
Insanely trivial questions from your mum. For some reason mums have a burning desire to ask trivial and irrelevant questions. If, for example, you happen to tell your mum you've just won £40 million on the lottery, it's entirely likely her first question will be: "Oh. D'you think you'll be buying some new trousers then?"
Any bitter ex-partner phoning for seemingly harmless reasons (eg. whether you want an old Blur CD back) which is really just a thinly veiled ploy to point out how vastly inferior you are to their current partner.

Robot bus drivers
Fully automated vehicles have long been a staple of science fiction, and robot bus drivers would have a distinct advantage over their carbon-based counterparts: they would not harbour a deep-seated hatred of people. Thus, unlike human bus drivers, robot bus drivers would not:

  • Refuse to let you on the bus because you're 2p short of the full fare
  • Look at you as though you're Gary Glitter if you happen to ring the bell at the wrong stop then not get off
  • Blithely drive past waiting passengers at a bus stop in a bus that is clearly less than a fifth full

• Badmouth a harassed mum struggling with a pushchair because she takes longer than four seconds to find her Oyster card but do absolutely nothing while a gang of teenage thugs terrorises everyone on the top deck

*Actual, real-life example

Intelligent energy management starts with the application of logic. Those responsible for a building's energy consumption rightly realise that wastage needs to be prevented. However, what is less obvious is  monitoring utilities is not just about measuring kilowatt-hours. In actual fact, reducing utility bills can be a minor part of the commercial advantage of intelligent monitoring, because a greater proportion of the potential for savings is, like an iceberg, out of view

The integration of energy management and energy efficiency has shifted to an even higher priority as energy price hikes reach epic inflationary proportions. Energy, always an overhead, is now eroding profits and adding to costs at alarming levels.

While focus tends to be on passive energy measures - such as installing energy saving luminaries and other energy efficient equipment - the real key to achieving maximum and sustainable savings is by adopting active energy consumption countermeasures.
To use a simple analogy, fitting energy saving lamps and tubes merely mitigates for the otherwise higher wastage when the lamps are left switched on in unoccupied areas. Fitting room occupancy sensors can therefore be regarded as active control that thereby maximises the savings of the entire lighting system.

In the broader arena of energy efficiency in buildings the task of identifying where energy is used, when and how much is used is critical to targeting the areas that are capable of being controlled. As one obvious example, if the draw on power is identified in an unmanned office area at night, the likelihood is that lighting has been left on, or even that equipment is powered in standby modes.

Logic is power
PowerLogic ION technology from Schneider Electric offers an integrated solution to monitoring and measuring power consumption with a rapid return on investment. Professionals from finance departments to building services engineers and premises and facilities managers use key performance indicators (KPIs), analysis and control tools to cut energy and maintenance costs without compromising the comfort, safety or productivity of occupants.

By installing a network of advanced PowerLogic meters throughout power distribution, building and backup systems, users can continuously track all their utilities and monitor equipment conditions. On the premise than one cannot manage what they cannot measure, enterprise-level software helps identify and sustain energy savings, accurately allocate or segment costs, optimise multi-site utility contracts and maximise reliability.

PowerLogic addresses a range of important power and energy management applications. Users can measure efficiency, reveal opportunities and verify savings. In multiple occupancy buildings tenants can be sub-billed for energy costs, while in single occupancy commercial situations energy costs can be allocated to departments or processes. Judicious management can reduce peak demand surcharges and even help reduce power factor penalties (reactive energy charges).

Effective metering has further benefits such as strengthening rate negotiation with energy suppliers; identifying billing discrepancies; and validating that power quality complies with the energy contract. From a facility management point of view metering can help maximise existing infrastructure capacity; support proactive maintenance; verify the reliable operation of equipment; and improve response to power quality-related problems.

Schneider Electric offers a range of easy to install products, which already incorporate the PowerLogic metering solution. These products are backed by professional surveys that include energy efficiency audits, asset optimisation studies and maintenance services - all delivered by Schneider Electric Services and Projects. Schneider Electric provides ease of use and choice by the installer, and has a standardised equipment offer with the Powerlogic PM750 meter. This has a dual output, pulsed and Modbus so it can be installed and communicate with most Building Management Systems (BMS) without modification.
Powerlogic metering can enable compliance with Part L2 of the Building Regulations and can be used in all kinds of switchboards, distribution panels, motor control centres and multi-metering measurement centres.

Over a building's lifetime, millions of pounds may be invested in equipment and the energy that runs it. Determining where excess equipment capacity exists, where it is being overstressed and where to balance loads on substations, MCCBs and other power equipment, is tricky and often left to guess work. Where validation is expected, this is clearly not enough. Energy efficiencies must be compared between departments and capacity in systems identified. Technology can accurately do this better than humans. By effectively monitoring electrical and piped utilities, equipment life can be increased and trend information can be utilised for further cost saving advantages.

Breaking the mould on monitoring
In the application of MCCBs, Schneider Electric has recently pioneered a fresh approach by incorporating not just incredible levels of electrical safety, through its protection and isolation functionality but also energy efficiency metering and monitoring.

The launch of the Compact NSX MCCB embodies features that provide all of these critical functions.

With options for monitoring and communication functions, the new range of MCCBs is ready for current and future needs. Setting a new standard in its class; protection functions are enhanced and for the first time both energy consumption and power can be monitored at the device.

The originality lies in how the devices measure, process and display data, either directly on the LCD screen, on the switchboard front panel or via a monitoring system. It is compatible with PowerLogic monitoring software that provides users with parameter sets and tools for comprehensive monitoring.

Electronic Protection modules incorporate three LEDs to give an immediate and clear visual indication of operational status.

Far more than a circuit breaker, Compact NSX lets operators better manage electrical installations and meet customer needs by optimising energy consumption, increasing supply availability and improving electrical installation management.

Compact NSX incorporates many new features that make it more flexible and suitable for an extended range of applications. The roto-active contact breaking principle, for example, provides better current limitation and endurance performance providing very high breaking capacity in a very small space.

Well suited to motor-starting and motor-running applications, the Compact NSX provides protection against short circuits, phase imbalance and loss with additional protection systems for starting and breaking with the motor running, jogging and reversing.

Metering at board level
It is not just devices such as the NSX MCCB that has been integrated with power metering. Compliance with certain aspects of the Building Regulations Part L2 has required the engineering and installation of meters to gather energy usage data. Schneider Electric developed a simple and elegant solution to the problem by offering its Isobar 4c 3 phase split metering lighting and power B type distribution boards with inbuilt meters and communications options.

The Building Regulations Part L2 a and b demand sufficient facilities to account for 90% of each fuel type by end use category. Since as long ago as 2006 it has also been required to have automatic meter reading and data collection facilities for all new buildings over 1000m2.
The Isobar 4c gives metering of total load plus separate metering of section 2. All control wiring current transformers and protection for meters are included and fitted, with outputs wired to terminals. For remote data collection and communications, an ethernet gateway and DC power supply can be supplied for retro-fit. The Power quality meters themselves are the state of the art PM750MG models with both pulsed output and modbus communications.
Isobar 4c distribution boards can also be supplied with extension enclosures for fitting of surge protection and remote switching if required for fitting on site to extend the functions of the distribution boards.

For split metering units the Isobar 4c 125 or 250amp boards come with a unique new split busbar (for which a patent is applied for) for lighting and power - in three combinations of 12/8, 14/6, 16/4 4/6,6/8 also - but a single overall isolation device. Standard incomers can be used together with split earth bars for ease of wiring.

Like all Isobar 4c boards, there is an individual unique outgoing MCB connection slider; units are designed manufactured and tested to BS EN 60439 1 & 3; ingress protection is to IP3X to BS EN 60529; voltage rating is 400/415V; and the cable capacity of neutral and earth bars is 25mm2.

Saving energy is laudable, but to maximise cost reduction an intelligent and convergent approach to power management enables prolonged equipment life, increased uptime, minimised outages and greater all-round efficiency.

Pledge to make european system carbon neutral

The European electricity generating industry is currently the beneficiary of what Point Carbon, the research group,  has identified as a stupefying £56bn windfall.

Where has all this money come from? It is arriving simply because to date the generators have received all of their permits to pollute under the European emissions trading scheme absolutely free and gratis. And then factored into their prices the official trading price of the permits - as Dorothy Thompson, the boss of the UK's biggest generating-only company, Drax, unguardedly admitted in an obscure media interview.

To counter the criticism, the industry's trade body Eurelectric is planning a big announcement this autumn. It will pledge that the entire European electricity system will become completely carbon neutral.  All very welcome of course, and guaranteed to bring the power boys lots of unusually positive publicity. Even if effectively we are talking two generations of power stations from now.
 

Because what will be stated rather more quietly is that this pledge will not be realised until  2050. Getting from the carbon filled present  to the promised Nirvana  40+ years on, will mean a big change from the status quo. There are at present plans to build at least a dozen massive new coal fired power stations like Eon's controversial Kingsnorth, all over Europe.
It would help Eurelectric's credibility if at this stage the industry would at least make provision for these new carbon-guzzlers to be ‘carbon capture and sequestration' ready. Even if the technology in question is still untried, and unlikely to be around for at least a dozen years - if we are lucky.

Of course by 2050 all of today's electric company bosses will be long since off on their retirement yachts. These will of course naturally be solar powered.

A minor detail

Was I alone in finding it ironic it was some of British Energy's private shareholders, like M&G, who rejected Electricite de France's initial bid to run the UK's existing nuclear power station? This thwarted the Labour Party, after 11 years of government, being able at last to respond to the demands of its' principal funders, the trade unions.

Because, after the nationalisation of Northern Rock, some nostalgic trade unionists are beginning to smell blood in the electricity sector, folowing its outrageous price increases. Bring it back into public ownership, they argue.

Electricite de France - which opts to trade in the UK as the much more language neutral EDF - is also known to be circling around Iberduero of Spain. Contemplating a wholesale take-over. If they succeed, that will mean Scottish Power (an Iberduero subsidiary) joining its vast empire, which includes such erstwhile famous - but now forgotten - names as Seeboard, London Electricity and SWEB. As well as British Energy.

All this is very pleasing to  these 1970s-style trade unionists. After all, EDF is still to all intents and purposes a wholly owned subsidiary of government. The fact the government in question resides in Paris rather than London is surely but a minor detail.

Brave new atomic world

The repercussions from the recent contretemps in the Caucasus rumble on. One of the main reasons why the USA is so concerned about little Georgia - which for centuries was very much part of Russia -  is the two oil and gas pipelines which have recently been built below ground, to carry these fossil fuels from the Caspian Sea to the West. During the days of Russian bombardment of Georgia, it was instructive to note how much of it was targeted on these pipelines.

Why? Because they exist to offer the West an alternative source for these hydrocarbons, rather than Mother Russia. Many of the more easterly countries in Europe have grown heavily dependent upon Gazprom, and desperately need to diversify. Hence also the horror with which the news of faults in the Norwegian gas pipelines are restricting supplies for this winter.

Next month the French presidency is ensuring the European Union debates a new policy paper, to emerge from the European Commission, on energy security. As far as President Sarkozy is concerned, there is one obvious response to these concerns. And that is for more European countries to follow the example of the Finns. Reject Russian gas. Build more nuclear power plants. And just guess which is the only country will can offer the expertise to deliver this brave new atomic world? Why, you can hear the laughter all the way from Paris.

Credit where it is due

In my August column, I told the happy story about how the arrival of integrated digital tuners upon the market place had reduced the anticipated growth of electricity consumption from the television market. Their success is knocking set-top boxes off the market. And thus reduces the previously anticipated growth in terawatt hour (TWh) consumption from the television sector by an impressive 40%.

I had used this as an example as to how the arrival of a new electricity consuming technology could - contrary to received opinion about gadgets - actually reduce demand. A triumph for the marketplace , I opined. Not so, say the regulators Ofgem. Apparently this only happened because of its specific intervention.

It oversees the Energy Efficiency Commitment scheme. Between 2005 and 2008, this forced the Big Six energy companies to stimulate some 151 TWh of savings in homes. One way the companies were encouraged to achieve this was by Ofgem providing direct incentives to install certain technologies. One of these was integrated digital tuners.

Hence the market transformation. It was obviously Ofgem's masterful insight which achieved this remarkable feat. I am always glad to give credit where credit is due.

The world's first high temperature superconducting power transmission cable system in a commercial power grid was energised on 22 April 2008 at the Holbrook substation on Long Island, New York, USA. Jean-Maxime Saugrain, Nexans superconductor activity manager, outlines the background to this ground-breaking project

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) project is a Superconductivity Partnership Initiative (SPI) between the US Department of Energy (DOE) and industry to provide a real-life demonstration of the application of an HTS (High Temperature Superconducting) cable within an electric utility's operational transmission system. The DOE, which funded around half of the £29m total project cost, sees HTS cables as a core component of a modern electricity superhighway, one that is free of bottlenecks and can readily transmit power to customers from remote generating sites, such as wind farms.

 The drive for innovative power grid technologies
Ageing and inadequate power grids are now widely seen as among the greatest obstacles to efforts to restructure power markets in the United States, Europe and elsewhere. Utilities face several converging pressures, including steady load growth, additions of new generation capacity, rising reliability requirements, sharp price volatility resulting from new competitive forces, and stringent barriers to locating new facilities, particularly extra-high voltage equipment.

There is general recognition that the utilities cannot achieve their future objectives without substantial investment in grid renewal programmes, yet there is an increasing reluctance from the public and planning authorities to approve conventional grid expansion schemes. Hence the drive to develop innovative technologies that can increase the electrical capacity and flexibility of power infrastructures.

HTS cables
One of the technologies with the greatest promise to relieve these pressures is the high-capacity, underground HTS cable. Over the past decade, several HTS cable designs have been developed and demonstrated to take advantage of the much higher power density of HTS materials compared with copper wires. Moreover, because they are actively cooled and thermally independent of the surrounding environment, they can fit into more compact installations than conventional copper cables, without concern for spacing or special backfill materials to ensure dissipation of heat. They also eliminate EMF concerns. These advantages reduce the impact on the local environment and enable compact cable installations that can carry three to five times more power than a conventional copper cable of similar size.
HTS cables have much lower impedance and resistance than conventional technology and can be placed strategically in the power grid to draw flow away from overtaxed cables or overhead lines - reducing network congestion while providing an environmentally friendly solution. They will probably have the most impact when used to carry large amounts of power through areas where space and access are at a premium. For example, utilities frequently encounter problems with obtaining rights of way in built-up areas to install the new cables needed to meet increasing demands for power. Replacing the existing conventional cables with an HTS link could enable several times the power to be carried by a system with the same footprint.

The compact nature of HTS cables could also help when it comes to crossing obstacles such as rivers. So instead of directional drilling, or constructing a dedicated cable tunnel, the HTS cable could be carried by existing structures, such as a bridge or service tunnel.

What is an HTS?
Superconductors are materials which do not exhibit any electrical resistance below a certain critical temperature. This phenomenon has been known since 1911 and is observed in what are now called LTS (Low Temperature Superconducting) materials because they are cooled typically with liquid helium at -269°C. In the late 1980s, a new family of superconductors, the HTS materials was discovered. They acquire their superconducting properties at a much higher ‘critical temperature', in particular they become superconducting at around -200°C which can be achieved using liquid nitrogen, a cheap, abundant and environmentally friendly cooling liquid. All HTS materials are copper oxide-based ceramics.

LIPA cable system design
The 600 metre cable system, currently the longest superconducting cable in the world, includes three phases connected to the LIPA grid through six outdoor terminations (three at each end). It was designed, manufactured and installed by Nexans. The cable cores utilize HTS wires produced by American Superconductor, the prime contractor for the LIPA HTS cable project. The liquid nitrogen refrigeration system was manufactured and installed by Air Liquide. Three 600m long vacuum insulated cryostats provide high quality thermal insulations that maintain the cable cores at cryogenic temperature.

LIPA is the third US electric utility to deploy an HTS cable system. The LIPA cable is both the longest of the three and the first to operate at the transmission voltage of 138kV - twice the previous highest voltage achieved by any HTS installation. It is designed to carry 2,400A, resulting in 574MVA of total power carrying capacity - enough to power 300,000 homes. The cable system is designed to withstand 51kA rms fault currents for 12 line cycles.
The system has been installed in the Holbrook Substation area of the LIPA grid, heading north for a distance of 600m to where a new switching station has been installed. This houses the HTS cable terminations, the liquid nitrogen refrigeration system and the necessary controls for operation and control of the cable system.

Cold dielectric design
The cable used in the LIPA project is a cold dielectric design. The cable system contains three individual HTS cables (one per phase) and six terminations. The cable configuration consists of a copper former, two HTS conductor layers, an high voltage insulation layer, an HTS screen layer, a copper screen stabilizer and a cryogenic envelope.  During normal operation, the cable core is maintained at operating temperature by circulating sub-cooled liquid nitrogen.
Each cable phase was pulled into a polyethylene conduit on site and linked to  outdoor terminations at both ends that connect the cable to the LIPA grid. These terminations also provide the connection to the cable refrigeration system.

Fault management
Just as with conventional cables, HTS cables must be safe and reliable should abnormal conditions, such as local and through faults, occur in the power grid.  Typically, the through faults are generated at other locations but affect the power flow on the superconductor cable. Local faults occur directly on the superconductor cable or related peripherals and in general require repairs, maintenance or replacement of equipment.

After a through fault it may or may not be necessary to take the cable out of service depending on the amount of energy dissipated. The LIPA cable system is designed to keep on operating after most through fault conditions.

During a local fault, a large current (many times the rated cable current) is created for a brief period until the circuit breakers can be opened. This can cause a tremendous amount of energy to be dissipated into the cable in a very short time. This dissipated energy has to be considered in the design of the cable system.
To provide the correct system protection a general fault protection scheme has been implemented in the LIPA grid protection environment to handle both local and through faults.

Successful energisation
The main aim of the LIPA project is to demonstrate that an HTS cable system can sustain transmission voltages. This was proved with great success when the system was energised at 138kV in April 2008. This type of in-service testing is vital to building our understanding of HTS installations as it is difficult to replicate the same conditions in the laboratory.

LIPA second phase - 2G HTS and cable joints

The Long Island development programmes has now moved into its second phase, with the same partners (Nexans, AMSC, Air Liquide and LIPA). This second phase will focus on replacing one of the existing cable phases with a new one based on second generation (2G) HTS tapes. 2G HTS tapes are designed to be significantly cheaper than the first generation HTS conductors used in the initial project, and will eventually lead to a more cost-effective cable system. The practical demonstration of 2G HTS in a working grid will be an important step towards commercialization of HTS power cable technology.
T

he existing LIPA cable system is just over 600m in length, because that is the longest single length of HTS cable that can be spooled easily for delivery to site, and it was decided in the initial phase to avoid the added complication of cable joints. However, cable joints will be essential to create longer HTS cable links of many kilometres. So this second phase will also encompass the development and demonstration of a suitable cable joint for both the construction of longer links and to enable HTS cables to be repaired.

The usual arrangement for lighting large outdoor areas such as car parks is to use a small number of high-mast lighting fittings. In the case of Birmingham Airport long-stay car park 1, however, the proximity of a runway means that it is impossible to adopt this approach. Instead, a much larger number of low-mast lighting fittings have to be used.

In fact, 180 fittings, each of which has a 70-watt SON-T high-pressure sodium lamp, are used to light the 500-space car park. This relatively large number of fittings made the car park a particularly attractive target for energy-saving measures.

To evaluate how effective such measures might be, Schneider Electric agreed to provide a trial installation based on its new Lubio lighting controllers. Three controllers were fitted, one master and two slaves, together with comprehensive metering and recording equipment from the company's Powerlogic range.

To make it easier to evaluate the performance of the Lubio installation, a switch was incorporated so that the Lubio controllers could be bypassed and the lighting fittings fed direct from the supply. All of the equipment was fitted in a feeder-pillar enclosure which was installed out of doors adjacent to the car park.
The Lubio controllers were configured to provide energy savings in two ways - by controlling the switch-on and switch-off times for the installation, and by regulating the voltage applied to the lamps.

Control over the on and off times was achieved using the astronomical clock built into the controllers. This computes the sunrise and sunset times for the location at which the controller is installed, and can thus accurately predict the time at which ambient light will need to be supplemented by artificial lighting. In addition, a light sensor is provided to turn the lighting on during unexpected dark periods, such as when heavy cloud is present. A further option is available for controlling the lighting via a building management system (BMS).

Regulation of the lamp supply voltage is a particularly useful way of achieving energy savings, as it offers the useful bonus of increasing the service life of the lamps. Prior to fitting the Lubio controllers, the lamps in this application were fed directly from the mains supply. Although this has a nominal voltage of 240V, records made during the trial revealed that it varied from 232.5V to 252.8V. The high voltage excursions are particularly detrimental to lamp life.

The Lubio controllers were set to provide a constant output of 220V during the car park's hours of peak usage, and 200V from 10:00 pm to 4:00 am, when the car park is much less busy. Direct measurement of the lighting levels showed that, even when operating at 200V, these were comfortably higher than the average of 30 lux and minimum of 10 lux specified in the Cibse fact file for outdoor car parks in urban areas.

It has been reported that, with the SON T lamps used in the installation, a 5% reduction in voltage is likely to yield a 33% increase in bulb service life. However, for a return on investment calculation, 25% is often assumed. In addition, the Lubio units provide ramp control over the voltage applied to the lamps, reducing stress and switch on and switch off, thereby further extending their lives. The result is substantial reductions in maintenance requirements and in bulb replacement costs.

The trials took place between January 2006 and August 2006. For their duration, the Powerlogic metering system recorded, at 30-minute intervals, information about voltage, current, power, power factor and total harmonic distortion, as well as active and reactive power. The information collected was subsequently analysed using Merlin Gerin System Manager software running on a PC.

The results are very interesting. With the Lubio system bypassed, the average energy usage over a 30 minute interval was 7.326kW, while with Lubio in circuit this fell to 5.665kW, a saving of more than 19%. The savings in reactive power were even more impressive at around 47%. Total harmonic distortion was also reduced by approximately a third on all three phases, and the power factor was held close to unity, except for short intervals while the lamps were starting up.

The overall results are summarised in the table below. The figure used for lamp life extension in this table is based on tests that Schneider Electric has carried out in France.
It is worth highlighting the net savings in the last two lines of this table, which show that the modest investment in the Lubio system delivers substantial and ongoing savings as well, of course, as helping to improve the overall energy efficiency of the lighting installation.
These benefits have proved sufficiently convincing for Birmingham Airport not only to retain the trial installation, after removal of the monitoring equipment, but also to consider other areas of the airport where Lubio lighting control could deliver benefits.

The trial carried out at Birmingham Airport with Lubio lighting control equipment from Schneider Electric has shown conclusively that it can deliver a whole range of benefits. These include energy savings, improved power factor and reduced maintenance requirements.
Further, the investment required to achieve these benefits is small and the payback period is short. Clearly, in this and similar applications, installing efficient lighting control is an excellent business proposition.

As the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive completes its first year of implementation in the UK with criticism levelled at the way it was implemented - the Batteries Directive waits in the wings, ready for its introduction later this year. Here Vince Armitage, divisional vice-president, Varta Consumer Batteries UK (right), introduces the new directive and highlights what is happening in other European countries, while outlining how the experiences of WEEE could help make the Batteries Directive a success in the UK and across Europe

With less than 100 days until the proposed implementation, it seems the Batteries Directive is still below the radar of the majority of UK manufacturers, retailers and consumers.
With parallels between the two pieces of legislation, it was expected that experiences of WEEE would be utilised to ensure a smooth roll-out of the Batteries Directive.

For the uninitiated, the Batteries Directive was actually transposed into the EU in 1991, restricting the use of mercury in most batteries. The directive also encouraged collection and recycling but, nearly 20 years after its introduction, the objectives of this legislation were not being achieved and portable batteries were still being disposed of in landfill. Therefore, a new Batteries Directive will come into force across Europe on 26 September 2008, replacing the existing piece of legislation, although no UK implementation date has been announced as yet.

Affecting all batteries placed on the market after 25 September 2008, the directive brings many key changes including a ban on most NiCad-batteries,   excluding items such as power tools and emergency lighting. The legislation also brings the requirement that all batteries must carry a symbol of a ‘crossed-out dustbin' indicating that the end of life material should not be simply thrown away. 

European-wide recycling targets have also been laid out, with 25 per cent of portable batteries having to be recycled by 2010, rising to 45 per cent by 2016. This is positive news and with improvements in recycling processes and techniques, it now means that almost 90 per cent of all batteries collected (by weight) can be recycled into useful by-products.
So what is the current status of the directive across Europe? As already mentioned, the UK is making positive steps towards implementation although no clear date has been outlined for the directive to be transposed into the UK legal framework. In other European countries, there is also still work to be done. France, for example, is labouring over a number of key issues which are holding up its adoption of the directive. The French are also out of kilter with the rest of the EU in proposing the incorporation of a ‘stealth fee' into the pricing of batteries to cover the cost of collecting and recycling.

The directive becoming law in Italy has been held up by governmental elections but the Italians envisage that this will be resolved by November. Another problem the Italians might face is the fact they have a very small number of recycling facilities in the country. This might mean a stockpile of end of life units is created, especially if the directive tightens rules about shipping waste across borders.

Romania expects the implementation in their country to be late. Like Italy, they are going through changes in government and are still discussing the implementation of the directive. Interestingly, the Swiss, even though they are not actually part of the EU and have no obligation to transpose the Batteries Directive, will still adopt the major points of the Directive into their legislative framework. It is thought that this adoption will not happen until mid 2009 at the earliest.

For other European countries, it's full steam ahead with some nations wanting to go as far as increasing the 2010 and 2016 recycling targets set out in the directive. Leading the pack is Belgium which is already achieving its targeted recycling rates and collection. This success is being achieved through a network of 20,000 collection points in schools, supermarkets, petrol stations, retail outlets and civic amenity sites which serves a population of 10 million people.

While its success cannot be questioned, the Belgium system does come at a cost and is the most expensive recycling model in Europe. It's envisaged that the average recycling cost across the continent will be 3.9 pence per battery; in Belgium it is currently more than two and a half times that at 9.9 pence. Such a high toll may deter other nations from following the Belgian system.

The Netherlands - seen as environmental visionaries and often two steps ahead of the rest of Europe when it comes to environmental legislation and the fore-fathers of the WEEE Directive - are, as one might expect, already up and running. Elsewhere, the Germans and Norwegians are also calling for the targets laid out in the directive to be raised even further for their respective countries.

While both are geared up to meet the introduction of the directive, both are calling for tougher targets. Germany wants the first recycling target to be raised from 25% to 35%, while Norway wants to see the targets in later years increased to 60% in 2012 and 70% by 2016.

Meanwhile, Spain is the only country, so far, to fully ratify the directive, while Turkey is in the position of having no producers, only importers. Finally, Finland, Hungry and Poland complete a mixed bag of status, with all three nations reporting few problems ahead of implementation and all expect things to roll out on time.

So what have WEEE learnt?
It must be said that it is unusual for wide reaching environmental legislation, such as the Batteries Directive and WEEE, to come into force so close together. Therefore the introduction of WEEE has been watched intently by the battery industry, keen to learn and capitalise on the experiences of the sector and those WEEE-obligated companies. But with the clock ticking until the implementation deadline, it seems that perhaps a number of lessons have not yet been taken on board.

One of the main frustrations levelled at the WEEE Directive has been around a lack of communication. Of course, with any new directive there will be an amount of confusion and areas which need further clarification. So far, it looks as if history might be repeating itself as information and clarification for those obligated by the new regulations has been poor. Organisations need more help in understanding how they can play their part. Nobody likes change but if they are guided and armed with the facts then the process is much easier with greater buy-in. This can be simply achieved by better communication around the directive, both for those organisations obligated and the end-users.

Other parts of the directive still need to be confirmed with uncertainty still around a number of other significant areas. The definition of producer is still to be fully defined, with the industry calling for further clarification around whom and what is classed as a producer. Much like the WEEE Directive, it is the producer - the party who places the batteries on the market - who is obligated under the directive. Although there is still some confusion around this topic - at present it's the manufacturer, importer of the product or private label owner which is considered a producer.

This role applies whether they place it on the market directly themselves, or if products reach the market through a third party partner such as a wholesaler, OEM or retailer. The registration process for producers is still far from perfect and again, organisations are waiting for guidance to ensure they are complying correctly.
Another parallel between the two directives is around the interpretation of the law. While the Batteries Directive is a Europe-wide law, there will be many interpretations of what it means at a local level. This is due to market variations and specific country laws and practices. This different 'in country' approach and interpretation could mean that results may well differ from nation to nation when it comes to measuring success. If local laws mean that the number of units in the market are recorded in different ways then results will be skewed, giving some nations an advantage over others when striving to achieve the recycling rates set out in the new directive.

Grass roots inconsistency across countries might cause problems in the long run. It could dilute the effectiveness and impact of the directive, while causing confusion for organisations that operate across multiple European borders.

Corralling the cowboys
Another issue that it is hoped the Batteries Directive will help bring to the fore is the standard of quality and safety of the batteries being imported into the UK. Even though the majority of products being brought into the country do comply, there are some batteries that do not. These often come from the Far East, where legislation on composition and manufacturing are much less stringent resulting in inferior construction and harmful chemicals being used.  These batteries offer poor performance which is masked from consumers through cheap prices. This creates a false economy - a vicious circle which reinforces the current throw away mentality.

End users are buying a product which will not deliver what they need but they will view this as the norm due to the cheaper price of the product. This means more poor batteries are bought and then discarded, left to leak their harmful toxins into the environment. It is hoped the Battery Directive will highlight this problem across the industry and those pedalling inferior products will be brought under control and eventually phased out. It is also hoped that end users will be educated about the benefits of buying better quality or better performing batteries. This alone would considerably reduce the levels of battery waste each year.

With not long to go until the Europe-wide implementation date, there are a number of areas which still have to be firmed up but the industry is working towards this on a daily basis. For instance, the measurement of batteries placed on the market and, as a result, battery collection targets are two very important areas which have recently been clarified. These targets will now be set on the basis that each country will calculate the annual sales of portable batteries and accumulators distributed to end-users, as the weight of them, placed on the market, during that year. This method will of course exclude any that have been exported during that year.

So, while some might look at the directive as more red tape and a burden, it should be viewed as a positive step. The majority of hard work has already been done and there are huge positives moving forward. Such directives give the industry and related sectors the opportunity to look at themselves and make positive changes. New laws should also be viewed by those organisations obligated by the changes as a chance to innovate and develop new products for the good of the end user.

All we need is one more, final, concerted push by everyone concerned - whether it's those classed as producers, manufacturers, the legislators or the end-users - to make the directive as effective and successful as it can be. Roll on implementation!"