And those principles serve both economic and environmental interests.
The problem is, they are easier to preach than to put into practice. It’s easier to compare two motors by their purchase price than to calculate their life cycle costs. It’s easier to regulate an individual motor as sold on the market than a motor system including the application as installed on the work floor.
That’s why we need to be relentless in repeating the benefits of those concepts, while embedding them into regulations and standards.
Extending the useful life of equipment is one of the pillar principles of the circular economy.
Electrical systems often fail at connections and joints. If designed or installed inadequately, they can become places of higher electrical resistivity, resulting in local hot spots. Apart from increasing the energy losses, hotspots can cause irreparable physical damage and even fire.
For example, connections can fail prematurely because of mechanical pressures, thermal expansion or galvanic corrosion. They are therefore to be properly designed, produced and managed.
Both for energy efficiency and for many forms of renewable energy, the major part of the financial effort is situated in the initial investment, which is then paid back over the years. Making lifecycle costing into a standard practice for energy related investments would therefore stimulate the energy transition.
And more generally, the energy transition moves the energy system from being primarily fuel-based to a mixed basis of fuel and capital. In such a context, lowest-first-cost is not a good idea, as it will increase system costs.
Let’s avoid turning capital goods into consumables, and pay attention to durability and circularity.
You could think that the device with the highest energy efficiency is the most difficult to improve. However, this is not always true. Even if the energy efficiency of a device is already high, it can be worth considering further improvements. And because power transformers are nearly continuously loaded, the smallest efficiency gain adds up to a substantial saving at the end of the year.
Lessons to be learned include careful design to develop super-efficient transformers, loading considerations, power quality issues (particularly harmonics), asset management, lifecycle costing in regulated networks, and recycling practices, to name a few.
We mentioned earlier the paradox of energy efficiency: regulation far from suffices, yet efficiency does not happen without regulation.
Therefore, we need a systems approach in more than one sense:
- Think beyond products to consider systems [11, 63, 81];
- Think beyond regulation to include best engineering practices and user behaviour [3, 32];
- Think beyond the initial purchase and installation to consider lifetime operation and maintenance.