Sustainable switch: Ausgrid first to install Siemens’ blue GIS

Two men in orange hi-vis shirts and yellow hard hats stand next to Siemens switchgear
Craig Wilson (Ausgrid) and Peter Halliday (Siemens)

Ausgrid, the largest distributor of electricity on Australia’s east coast, is the first organisation in Australia to install Siemens’ innovative blue gas insulated (GIS) medium voltage switchgear which uses climate-neutral ‘clean air’ in replacement of F-gas.

Commonly used in industry, fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-gases) have high global warming potential. The SF6 (sulphur hexafluoride) variant that is traditionally used in insulation products has as much as 23,000 times the impact of CO2 on global warming.

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The use of blue GIS helps reduce Ausgrid’s carbon footprint and paves the way towards more sustainable, climate friendly grid infrastructure, supporting Australia’s pathway to net zero. As the electricity grid expands to cater for increased renewable energy, this grid expansion without F-gases will help stop Ausgrid’s carbon footprint from growing.

“Ausgrid’s vision is for communities to have the power in a resilient, affordable and net zero future. Net zero is a strategic priority for us, and technological innovation will help us make a positive and sustainable impact on our electricity network that benefits our communities, the country and the planet. Installing new technology, such as Siemens’ blue GIS switchgear, is a significant milestone. This switchgear, instead of using the potent greenhouse gas SF6, uses completely carbon-neutral ambient air. Every step towards net zero is important, and the positive impact of the electricity industry moving away from damaging SF6 cannot be understated,” Ausgrid sustainability manager Craig Wilson said.

Siemens’ blue GIS encompasses primary and secondary switchgear, with a maximum rated voltage of 24kV. Higher voltage ratings are under development. The overall footprint and dimensions of the blue GIS unit are identical to the SF6 versions which allows simple replacement.

Related article: How SF6-free technology supports a more sustainable future for utilities

According to the EU Commission, at EU level, F-gases currently account for 2.5% of total greenhouse gas emissions. In April 2022, the European Commission has released a legislative proposal to update the 2014 F-gas Regulation in order to more tightly control F-gases. Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) is one of these gases. It has been used for more than 35 years in electricity transmission and distribution equipment as a switching and insulating gas. However, SF6 is the most potent greenhouse gas with an atmospheric residence of up to 3,200 years.

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