Towards an eco-efficient transformation
Some principles are built to last
Although 100 years of technical progress have significantly transformed the potential of today`s car engine, the basic principle of internal combustion is the same as it was 130 years ago.
So it is with electrical transformers. The basic physical principle hasn`t altered in more than a century, but energy efficiency, costs, weight and dimensions have changed considerably. Transformers are an essential element of our electrical grids, as they enable stepping up or down of voltages. They make it possible to transmit large loads over long distances, and safely deliver smaller loads into our neighborhoods and homes.
It is in the realm of electrical transmission and distribution that transformers, by their sheer numbers, can play an essential role in making our grids more energy efficient.
The European Regulators’ Group for Electricity and Gas (ERGEG) estimates losses in transmission and distribution networks on the continent consume between 4 and 15 percent of electricity generated.
Average network losses in Europe are around 7 percent, and about 75 percent of these occur in distribution networks, according to ERGEG. The International Energy Agency (IEA), meanwhile, attributes more than 70 terawatt hours of losses to the combined inefficiencies of power and distribution transformers in Europe.
Eliminating these inefficiencies could reduce Europe`s CO2 emissions by 30 megatons annually, according to the IEA.
The problem often lies with aging grid equipment trying to cope with ever increasing power loads. The solution is a more efficient grid, starting with essential equipment like transformers.
Such an effort is underway now in America, where the Department of Energy is implementing new efficiency standards for distribution transformers – the ubiquitous grey cylinders atop utility poles or in metal boxes at ground level in all residential neighborhoods.
With more than 40 million distribution transformers in service today in the US, they represent a prime target for improvement. The proposed standards will have a relatively modest impact on the efficiency of individual transformers (about 4 percent over current models), but a small gain multiplied by millions of units can yield impressive results.
The same holds true for communities in Europe, Asia, Africa, or South America. One efficient machine is good; ten million is transformative.