Old equipment, new tricks: how circularity extends the life of your equipment by decades

Old equipment, new tricks: how circularity extends the life of your equipment by decades

According to the OECD, we are going to need 2.3 planets to meet global material resource needs by 2040 if we continue to grow consumption at the current pace. If we keep going as we are now, material extraction will double the 2015 levels by 2050. Hence, developing and implementing material management strategies that keep us within planetary boundaries is more crucial than ever.

In a circular economy, extending the lifespan of products, minimizing material consumption, and promoting the reuse and recycling of goods are the main priorities. Resources are used for as long as possible in this economic framework, ensuring maximum value extraction.

With our rising material extraction and use, global circularity has shrunk from 9.1% in 2018 to 7.3% in 2023. This decrease stems from industries’ heavy reliance on new materials, creating the traditional linear ‘take-make-dispose’ model.

It’s everyone’s responsibility to adopt a circular approach for the benefit of society and the environment. According to the 2023 Circularity Gap Report, here are some ways to transition towards a circular economy:

  • Use less: Reduce material use, regenerate the Earth, and prevent resource loss in delivering social outcomes.
  • Use longer: Keep materials in use for as long as possible by prioritizing durability and repairability in stocks made to last.
  • Make clean: Substitute toxic or hazardous materials and processes with regenerative biomass resources.
  • Use again: Reuse materials to minimize the need for new input and maximize secondary materials re-entering the economy.

ABB Electrification Service contributes to an organization’s circular approach by upgrading and retrofitting equipment rather than wholesale replacement. Our customers move away from the ‘take-make-dispose’ mentality by reusing resources and reducing dependence on new materials. And preventive, not reactive, maintenance programs reduce material waste and extend the lifetime of crucial electrical infrastructure.

Case study: ENGIE

ABB helped ENGIE, a leading energy supplier in Belgium, to ensure continuous and safe operations in its innovative heat and power plants. Through ABB Electrification Service, the company enhanced its electrical infrastructure while maximizing the potential of its existing equipment.

The company modernized its medium voltage circuit breakers with our OneFit Retrofill Solution, replacing aging breaker components with state-of-the-art VD4G vacuum circuit breakers. This upgrade safeguards crucial assets, such as generators and transformers, from potential short circuits by isolating power interruptions within milliseconds.

ENGIE sees the partnership with ABB Electrification Service as a tangible example of how the circular approach can extend asset lifespan and reduce operating equipment costs, bringing short and long-term benefits to the company, society, and environment.

Upgrade vs replacement – when to choose

Failure to adapt to changing market dynamics and technological advancements can lead to increased downtimes and operational costs. This is why optimizing existing investments or embracing innovation is a critical decision that organizations must make. ABB can replace or upgrade equipment, guaranteeing long-term competitive and sustainable operations.

Replacement process

Underestimating engineering activity when choosing the replacement may result in more repair costs and functionality issues. ABB engineers have in-depth knowledge and access to the as-built configurations that can help find the right solution for mechanical, electrical, and functional interchangeability.

Replacement of active, classic, or limited products or systems requires carefully selecting models, ratings, accessories, configurations, and wirings. Our replacement services apply to all ABB and legacy brands, including low and medium-voltage relays, switch gears, and circuit breakers.

Upgrade process

If outdated components are regularly monitored and maintained, 50% of electrical equipment can be reused. Major parts, such as bus bars, power cables, and mechanical structures, can be retained in ABB’s upgrade process.

Many of our customers with aged systems opt to update with next-generation hardware and software. Our solutions bring advanced functionality that bring numerous benefits for organizations, including:

  • extended switchgear’s performance and operational life
  • reduced costs and saved time associated with a switchgear upgrade: only the specific system-related components are targeted
  • minimum or no change in the existing system while upgrading
  • prevention of unplanned outages.

Choosing to upgrade, rather than undertaking a complete replacement, improves sustainability and contributes to a circular economy. Since most of the equipment is still in service, this process also saves on natural resources and avoids carbon emissions from manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of materials.

Case study: Hongkou Football Stadium

Hongkou Football Stadium turned to ABB for an electrical makeover. With limited maintenance since its reconstruction in 1999, China’s first football venue required an upgrade due to its aging circuit breakers being used beyond their intended operational life.

However, implementation was on a tight deadline with that year’s football season fast approaching. The stadium partnered with Shenzhen Tongyida Mechanical and Electric Equipment Co. Ltd. - Shanghai Branch to acquire four standard Emax E2.2 breakers and 15 advanced Emax 2 breakers from ABB.

These components were all installed using ABB’s direct-replacement (DR) retrofitting kit, specifically designed for upgrading Megamax to Emax 2. This technology allows the insertion of a special Emax 2 moving part into the existing Megamax fixed part, eliminating any dismantling of the old fixed parts or rewiring of auxiliary circuits. Besides saving labor and material costs, this also contributes to circularity by reusing as much material as possible.

All breakers were installed and tested within just two days, facilitated by the swift 20-minute installation process of the DR retrofitting kit, and the stadium was ready to go when the football season began.

It’s not just money you’re saving, but the planet too

Upgrading electrical infrastructure goes beyond improving efficiency and reliability; it’s also a significant step toward embracing sustainability. ABB helps organizations close the loop on circularity through its upgrading and retrofitting solutions.

We recognize the urgency of addressing climate change and aim to drive meaningful change through our products and systems. You’re not just saving costs by partnering with ABB for your electrical infrastructure needs. You’re also actively participating in the collective effort to preserve our planet for future generations.

There are a range of established tools and techniques to support asset managers and maintenance engineers move in favour of circular economics, as well as several exciting new developments on the horizon. Understand how to begin your success story with our latest guide: “Tackling Throwaway Culture - How to use circularity to reduce total cost of ownership and improve sustainability”.

Together, let’s harness the power of technology to create a brighter, more sustainable tomorrow.


Contact us


Share this article

Facebook LinkedIn Twitter WhatsApp