Our objectives

URGENT call to mainstream SF6-free technologies in electrical switchgear

As part of its Kyoto Protocol commitments, the EU adopted the F-gas Regulation to control emissions from climate-harmful fluorinated greenhouse gases (GHG). According to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) tops the list of the most harmful GHG known as it is 23,500 times more potent than CO2 and stays in the atmosphere for 3,200 years.

The F-gas Regulation successfully banned the use of SF6 where less harmful alternatives are available. However, the text, which entered into force in 2015, provided an exception to the general ban for using SF6 for insulation purposes in electrical switchgear because at the time it was argued that alternative technologies were not ready for the market. EU co-legislators nevertheless required the Commission to reassess this exception in 2020 with a view to prohibit its use if possible.

Today, SF6-free technologies that are cost-effective, technically feasible, energy-efficient and reliable exist for the electrical sector. However, market take-up of these solutions is not as fast as could be expected. They are only rarely privileged in tenders and so industry overall appears to be either unaware or unconcerned that there is still a strong and expanding SF6 market. The current F-gas Regulation arguably supports this status quo through an approach that seeks to contain and manage SF6 gas instead of actively encouraging SF6-free alternatives. 

Moreover, switchgear has a long life-cycle of up to half a century. It will therefore be years before the impact of a ban on SF6 is realized, as each switchgear installed in a grid means further emissions for decades to come. Installing new SF6 switchgear must therefore be avoided. 

Furthermore, the ongoing decentralization of energy generation will likely lead to increased needs for switching equipment in the electricity grid with corresponding increases in SF6 gas emissions if its use in medium-voltage switchgear is not banned in the short-term. It is time for the EU to ACT. 

We call on the European Commission to stop unnecessary climate-harmful emissions and immediately publish a proposal to amend Annex III of the F-gas Regulation to ban the use of SF6 gas in the electrical sector, thereby creating momentum for technology gains and giving clear impetus for the available SF6-free technologies to go mainstream.

At minimum, SF6 gas for use in medium-voltage switchgear up to 36 kV can be banned immediately, with short-term timelines fixed for higher kV switchgear.

Finally, we call for specific EU incentives to encourage public authorities to support private sector actors to replace old installations with SF6-free switchgear, as well as financial incentives to push the private sector towards environmentally -friendly solutions.

Green switching supporters

The following organisations are supporters and contributors to the Green Switching Forum.