[118] Reduce equipment failure, extend lifetime

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.

[88] Breadth and depth

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.

[49] A lifetime of opportunities to improve

A new approach to ‘building commissioning’ is needed. Normally it is used after a new building has been constructed and all systems are up and running, to verify that it is ‘ready for use’. But that’s only one instant in time for which it could be used.

In Schneider Electric’s course ‘Commissioning for Energy Efficiency’, the same term is used for periodical actions that ensure that a building keeps on operating as intended, with optimal energy use and comfort levels. Seen like that, a concept like ‘continuous commissioning’ makes sense. See also [45, 47].

[47] Fit-and-forget doesn’t work

An article on Greenbiz.com was claiming that ‘It’s time for the building industry to shift from development to maintenance, using a life cycle approach.’

The article proposes three types of renovation. Apart from major retrofits and opportunistic equipment replacements, it introduces ‘building retro-commissioning’. This is the practice of bringing a building every 5 to 7 years back in line with its design intent and technical capability in order to achieve its predicted performance. The inspection programs in the Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD) could provide the framework for the latter approach.

See also [124].

[34] The potential of hydropower

The US was the first to build large-scale hydropower stations; and now these installations are ageing. Upgrading them could boost the hydropower output at a cost of less than 4 cents /kWh without the environmental disruption of new dam construction. This also applies in Europe and for other types of renewable energy: technology keeps on developing. Upgrading and repowering existing sites is rapidly becoming an interesting market for hydropower. The same trend can be observed for wind energy plants.