How high-efficiency distribution transformers contribute to a better world

Environmental and financial savings are not mutually exclusive

Walk down any street in any modern city, and at some point you will pass a distribution transformer. According to Prophet II, a November 2014 report prepared for the European Copper Institute, there are more than 118 million distribution transformers in service around the world.

They are essential network components that lower electrical voltages to safe and usable levels for end users, typically incurring losses of two to three percent in the process, contributing to the energy losses in our electrical grids due to low efficiency. Since all electricity passes through them before it is used, reducing transformers losses could greatly improve the efficiency of electrical networks overall.

The sheer numbers of transformers involved means the savings are substantial. Network losses accounted for eight and a half percent of all the electricity produced globally in 2011, according to the report, equivalent to 1,788 terawatt hours (TWh) or 70 percent of the world’s total nuclear power production. Slightly more than one-third (36 percent) of these losses is attributed to distribution transformers.

Transformer technology has advanced significantly since the 1970’s when many of the transformers still in service today were manufactured. Innovations in materials and manufacturing make modern products up to 60 percent more efficient than older units.

Rebuilding the world’s electrical grids to make them more efficient would be a gargantuan task, and expensive beyond imagining. But this daunting prospect is not the best place to start. Replacing inefficient transformers has much more potential, and is by far easier to do than swapping out networks of cables, lines and equipment. A new distribution transformer can be installed without even turning off the electricity!

What if every inefficient distribution transformer could be replaced with a new, easy-to-install and readily available high efficiency product? An enormous quantity of lost power and CO2 emissions could be prevented. The European Union alone, with an estimated 4.5 million distribution transformers, could avoid 38 TWh of electrical losses and 30 million tons of CO2 emissions every year, which would be equivalent to removing 16.5 million cars from our road networks!

These energy-efficiency savings do not have to come at a huge cost either. As the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) concept is applied to more and more transformer purchases to determine the best products to use for specific applications, it has become abundantly clear that high efficiency products are actually cheaper to own over their lifetime than low efficiency units.

So, as you can see, we already live in a world where environmental responsibility and savings can go hand in hand!

Read more:

Categories and Tags
About the author

Duncan Crossland

I'm the Marketing & Sales Manager for ABB distribution transformers covering the range of products up to 10MVA and 36kV. I've been with ABB since 2001 and have spent most of this time in sales. From my role, I can see the different dynamics of the global economy, and also how regulations in all the different regions are driving towards more energy efficient products.
Comment on this article