Illustration of a typical gas-insulated switchgear Click to enlarge
Illustration of a typical gas-insulated switchgear
Source: Ecofys

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6), which has a very high global warming potential, is used for insulation and arc interruption in switchgear. SF6 emissions have been successfully reduced thanks to a voluntary industry commitment. Alternative products to substitute SF6 in various applications are developed.

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Study on possible alternatives to SF6

A current study carried out on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) aims to explore alternatives to SF6 in electrical equipment, their suitability for use, advantages and limits as well as their environmental impact. The study runs from 2016 to early 2018. See "Project description" below for more details about the study.


Publication of progress report

In July the project team consisting of Ecofys and ETH Zurich published a first progress report with regard to the project „Konzept zur SF6-freien Übertragung und Verteilung elektrischer Energie“ for the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety. The intermediate report emphasized on the state of the art description of electrical equipment in medium- and high-voltage using potential SF6-based applications. The actual state of knowledge will be amended by potential action for reduction of SF6 usage. The publication of the final report is projected for the beginning of 2018.

All interested parties have the opportunity of annotation until 31st of August 2017. Please send your statements or commented pdf-versions by E-Mail to: secretariat-germany [at] ecofys [dot] com.


Expert workshops

The first expert workshop between manufacturers and operators of high and medium voltage switchgear took place on the 6th of March 2017. The project team and participants presented and discussed the results of the current projects status. The main focus of the workshop emphasized on discussions on state-of-the-art SF6 switchgear as well as alternatives in high and medium voltage. The outcome of this workshop and presentations (in German) are available under “intermediate project results”.

In fall of 2017 a second expert workshop with a European audience will take place in Brussels. This workshop will focus on potential actions in the course of the concept development.



Intermediate project results

First expert workshop (March 2016, Berlin):

During this event German-speaking manufacturer and users presented and discussed the application of SF6 as well as alternatives in electrical switchgear. Intermediate project results of, an introductive presentation in the topic by the German Environment Agency as well as the achieved results protocol can be found under the following links (in German):

Symposium „Hochspannungs-Schaltanlagen“:

The project team presented and discussed interim results of the project at a symposium (Hochspannungs-Schaltanlagen) held in October 2016 at TU Darmstadt. The presentation slides are available here (in German).


Project description

SF6 has been used for many years in medium- and high-voltage electrical switchgear for power transmission and distribution. A study on the transmission and distribution of electrical energy without the use of SF6(Konzept zur SF6-freien Übertragung und Verteilung elektrischer Energie) is being conducted on behalf of the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB). The study is exploring alternatives to SF6 in electrical equipment, their suitability for use, advantages and limits as well as environmental impact. The project focuses on new equipment only since the substitution of SF6-based technology with alternative insulation materials and techniques can only take place with the production of new systems.

One major focus of the study is the drafting of a detailed overview of systems which do and do not use SF6. It also explores suitable policy, legislative, regulatory and economic measures to achieve an effective reduction of SF6 in new systems. The intensive dialogue with manufacturers and operators throughout the project duration is very important in this context.

The project runs until February 2018 and is being carried out by Ecofys Germany GmbH in cooperation with ETH Zürich. The German Environment Agency is providing professional advice.


Project team

Project management: Ecofys Germany GmbH

Contact: Dr.-Ing. Karsten Burges, k [dot] burges [at] ecofys [dot] com

Project partner: ETH Zürich, High Voltage Laboratory

Contact: Prof. Dr. Franck, franck [at] eeh [dot] ee [dot] ethz [dot] ch

Logos of the three organisations Ecofys, High Voltage Laboratory und ETH Zürich
The project is run by Ecofys and the High Voltage Laboratory at ETH Zürich.
Source: Ecofys und ETH Zürich

German industry's voluntary commitment

The Federal Republic of Germany together with the German industry reached an agreement on global warming prevention on 9 November 2000. In this context, SF6 producers as well as manufacturers and operators of electrical equipment > 1kV made a voluntary agreement to reduce SF6 emissions. This agreement was first set up and signed in 2005. The parties are bound to the commitment until 2020.


EU Regulation on fluorinated greenhouse gases

Electrical switchgear is subject to the provisions of EU Regulation 517/2014. Depending on filling volume and construction type, different requirements apply for leakage control, record-keeping, and certification of personnel. Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/2066 goes into greater detail concerning certification of personnel.

Article 21 of EU Regulation 517/2014 envisions an assessment of alternatives for secondary medium-voltage switchgear by 1 July 2020, and no later than December 2022 for all other equipment.