ABB and UK Power Networks switch to a sustainable future with the world’s first 36 kV double busbar AirPlus™ switchgear

ABB and UK Power Networks switch to a sustainable future with the world’s first 36 kV double busbar AirPlus™ switchgear

  • UK Power Networks announces plans to reduce its use of Sulfur Hexafluoride (SF6), the world’s most potent greenhouse gas
  • As part of its Environmental Action Plan, the UK’s biggest electricity distributor will install ABB switchgear containing innovative AirPlus™ insulating gas, which has almost zero global warming impact
  • ABB’s AirPlus innovative double busbar design reduces the risk of unplanned downtime and provides greater flexibility of power load sharing

UK Power Networks, which provides power to 8.3 million homes and businesses, has commissioned ABB to supply the world’s first 36 kV medium-voltage double busbar AirPlus Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS). It features AirPlus gas, which acts as an insulator between the electrical contacts with almost zero global warming impact.

As part of its Environmental Action Plan to pass on a sustainable planet for future generations, the UK’s biggest electricity distributor, UK Power Networks has announced plans to use AirPlus, ABB’s innovative sustainable alternative to SF6 switchgear, at its substation in Kent.

As Europe moves towards tighter regulation on the traditional gas (SF6,) used in switchgear, ABB’s AirPlus provides a compelling eco alternative. Unlike SF6, which is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 23,500 times greater than that of carbon dioxide (CO2)), ABB’s AirPlus gas has almost zero global warming impact. It is designed to drive high reliability and fulfill upcoming environmental regulations for segments like utilities.

Commenting on the installation, Alessandro Palin, President of ABB’s Distribution Solutions division explained: “As part of our 2030 Sustainability Strategy, ABB is committed to helping customers and suppliers reduce their emissions. AirPlus is a key part of this strategy, and we are proud to work together with utilities such as UK Power Networks to make the switch to eco alternatives, that not only provide reliable power but will also protect our planet. A pioneer in this field, ABB has installed thousands of SF6-free solutions globally. Moving from SF6 to an SF6-free portfolio is an important milestone towards enabling a low carbon society.”  

Transitioning to AirPlus will help UK Power Networks to achieve its sustainability targets, as it offers the same footprint and similar performance as an SF6 switchgear and operates at lower-tank pressures. The higher the voltages, the higher the pressure in the switchgear, but thanks to AirPlus, ABB’s switchgear can handle the pressure, having a safe low-pressure design with similar dielectric insulation benefits and footprint as an SF6 switchgear. The revolutionary double busbar design gives the additional benefit of reliability by reducing the risk of unplanned downtime and offering more flexibility in sharing the power load.

In addition to enhancing the collaboration with UK Power Networks, this contract confirms the acceptance of AirPlus technology as a reliable alternative to SF6 for utilities in the UK. A complete switchgear solution has been delivered to the company’s substation in Dartford, Kent.

Barry Hatton, director of asset management at UK Power Networks, said: “We have clear goals to reduce the environmental impact of our operations and help enable the country’s transition to net zero carbon emissions, while maintaining reliable electricity supplies for more than eight million homes and businesses. Our new AirPlus switchgear supports our strategy and delivery of our Environmental Action Plan.”

ABB was one of the first companies to offer SF6-free switchgear solutions for MV ranges up to 40.5 kV, with the largest global installed base of over 5,000 ecoGIS switchgear installations since 2015.


ABB (ABBN: SIX Swiss Ex) is a leading global technology company that energizes the transformation of society and industry to achieve a more productive, sustainable future. By connecting software to its electrification, robotics, automation and motion portfolio, ABB pushes the boundaries of technology to drive performance to new levels. With a history of excellence stretching back more than 130 years, ABB’s success is driven by about 105,000 talented employees in over 100 countries.

ABB’s Electrification Business Area is a global leader in electrical products and solutions, operating in more than 100 countries, with over 200 manufacturing sites. Our 50,000+ employees are dedicated to transforming how people live, connect and work by delivering safe, smart and sustainable electrification solutions. We are shaping the future trends of electrification, differentiating through technological and digital innovation while delivering an outstanding experience through operational excellence for our customers across utilities, industry, buildings, infrastructure and mobility. For more information visit

UK Power Networks is the UK’s biggest electricity distributor, making sure the lights stay on for more than eight million homes and businesses across London, the South East and the East of England. Network operators aren’t the same as energy suppliers; network operators manage local power lines and substations, while energy suppliers sell the electricity that runs through the power lines. UK Power Networks continues to be listed in the Top 25 Best Big Companies to Work For and made industry history by becoming first company to win Utility of the Year two years running (2015 and 2016 also 2012). The company invests more than £600 million in its electricity networks every year, offers extra help to vulnerable customers at times of need, and is undertaking trials to ensure that electricity networks support the transition to a low carbon future. It also moves cables and connects new electricity supplies. If you have a power cut ring 105, see or tweet us @UKPowerNetworks


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