How Can Regulations Reduce F-gas in Power Networks?
Since the mid-twentieth century, sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) has been widely used as a replacement for oil as an insulator in electrical equipment, with one of its largest uses today being in electrical switchgear. SF6)has proven to be reliable and highly effective in applications where arcing can be expected and its use has enabled smaller, cleaner designs and greater equipment durability over time.
By almost all accounts, SF6 has been a strong performer in electrical equipment.
The global warming concern
However, SF6 is also a “greenhouse gas” (GHG). As one of the group of compounds known as fluorinated gases, SF6turns out to be the most potent GHG in terms of its global warming potential (GWP).
With this realization have come strict measures to help limit the release of SF6 into the atmosphere. These include careful accounting of the production and distribution of SF6 as well as limits on its use.
In the United States, the EPA began investigatingSF6 in 1997. In 2012 it mandated reporting for equipment with nameplate capacities of 17,820 lb or more. This has resulted in a marked decrease in emissions. Many states – most notably California, but also including Washington, Oregon, Massachusetts, and New Jersey – have followed suit by instituting SF6 reporting regulations and lowering permissible emissions.
As early as mid-2000, the European Climate Change Programme (ECCP) identified SF6 reduction as a key component in its GH reduction initiatives to meet the Kyoto Protocol commitments made by the EU. Plans included the eventual banning of some F-gases in specific applications as well as strengthening the operational controls of systems that use these gases and limiting their production and import/export activities. These efforts have continued under the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015. With the next UN Climate Change Conference scheduled for November 2020, many participating countries are now drafting updates to their climate plans, or Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Environmentalists anticipate that 2020 may mark a turning point in GHG reductions, ushering in even more rapidly tightening regulations.