Northern Powergrid supports network decarbonization with eco-efficient switchgear

Northern Powergrid supports network decarbonization with eco-efficient switchgear

  • UK distribution network operator pilots innovative SF6-free Gas Insulated Switchgear (GIS) solutions from ABB
  • Using SafePlus switchgear with sustainable AirPlus™ to reduce harmful emissions
  • Providing reliable and sustainable power for residents while supporting Northern Powergrid’s drive to net zero

As part of ambitious plans to decarbonize its network by 2040, Northern Powergrid, which provides power to 3.9 million homes and businesses in northern England, is piloting ABB’s eco-efficient Medium Voltage (MV) switchgear. The innovative solution replaces harmful SF6 with alternative insulation gases, AirPlus™ and dry air, with almost zero global warming impact (GWP).

Sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) is a potent greenhouse gas with an atmospheric lifetime of 3,200 years. Reducing SF6 leaks across Northern Powergrid’s electrical distribution network of over 63,000 substations and 60,000 miles of overhead power lines and underground cables, is central to the network operator’s commitment to achieve net zero within the next 20 years.

As the first installation of its kind on Northern Powergrid’s distribution networks, two variants of ABB’s SafePlus switchgear have been adopted at substations in County Durham. Both use alternatives to SF6 gas to reduce environmental impact. For versions rated up to 24 kV, SafePlus AirPlus switchgear contains ABB’s AirPlus gas, with a GWP of less than one, compared with 100 for carbon dioxide. SafePlus Air switchgear, rated at up to 12 kV, contains dry air as insulation with a GWP of zero.

Joseph Helm, Policy and Standards Manager at Northern Powergrid, said: “Decarbonization is the biggest and most important challenge that our planet faces. Until recently, there have been limited viable alternatives to SF6. This pilot underlines our commitment to exceeding business plan targets, embracing the latest innovations, and lowering emissions. Using new solutions like ABB’s eco-efficient switchgear represents a significant milestone in our drive towards decarbonization. We have already reduced SF6 leaks by 23 percent, but still want to drive an extra 15 percent by 2028. Switching to ABB’s comprehensive range of eco-efficient switchgear will help us to push ahead with these ambitious carbon commitments.”

Northern Powergrid has been using ABB switchgear solutions for more than 20 years. ABB’s latest eco-efficient range, including SafePlus AirPlus and SafePlus Air, has the same interface and footprint. This enables solutions to be quickly and cost-effectively deployed, a vital success factor for accelerating the network operator’s path to net zero.

Stephen Gibbs, ABB’s Marketing and Sales Director for Electrification Distribution Solutions said: “ABB has delivered its proven AirPlus technology to installations around the world, with more than 5,000 eco-GIS solutions installed since 2015. With the UK committing to reducing emissions by 78 percent by 2035, the race is on to support these ambitious targets. Initiatives like Northern Powergrid’s pilot of our SF6-free switchgear will pave the way for further decarbonization of its network and support the network operator as it aims to lower its environmental footprint.”

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


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