Featured in VoltiBulletin April 2011 - Green Cables

Dr Jeremy Hodge, chief executive of the British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC) reminds wholesalers to think green when discussing a customer’s needs
With the registration period for the UK's Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) energy efficiency cap-and-trade scheme ending on 30 September, carbon reduction and energy saving are a priority for businesses within the construction sector, educational establishments and the public sector. In terms of purchasing wire and cable products, specifiers and contractors are increasingly briefed to source the environmental option. Dr Jeremy Hodge, chief executive of the British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC) reminds wholesalers to think green when discussing a customer’s needs.
The advantages of a triple bottom line of economic, environmental and societal benefits are becoming increasingly apparent and electrical installations are one area where substantial improvements to energy and wider environmental performance can be achieved.
Contractors and specifiers in the UK, whether individual or corporate, should be encouraged to make low-carbon choices, thus reducing the pressure on the energy infrastructure.A number of assessment methodologies have been developed which help purchasers compare the environmental merits of one product or technology over another. 
For wire and cable, the key issues are recyclability, life cycle assessment, embodied energy, hazardous substances and in-use efficiency.
Wire and cable using copper or aluminium conductors has the advantage of using readily recyclable, high value materials in an easily separable form. Recycling industries for copper and aluminium are well-established and perform a valuable function. Copper from cable may be reused without fresh refining if it is segregated from other copper and non-ferrous waste metals (for example from plumbing).
Life Cycle Assessment
Life cycle assessment is a valuable appraisal technique widely used for manufactured products. All environmental aspects of the product (such as embodied energy, materials use and waste) are assessed for their impact over the whole life cycle of a product, including recycling or reuse. The methods are formalised in the ISO 14040 series of standards.
For insulated wire and cable products, one of the main factors influencing life cycle impact is the operational lifetime of the product. If cable has to be replaced within its advertised life expectancy this significantly degrades life cycle performance. Hence specifiers should choose cables and installation designs which are (1) less prone to failure in use, and (2) less prone to performance degradation over time. So choose cable from a reputable manufacturer, with the appropriate approvals demonstrating compliance with specifications.
Hazardous Substances
Numerous countries have introduced legislation on the use of hazardous substances in electrical and electronic products, including the European Union (RoHS), China and parts of the USA. The provisions are targeted at specific heavy metals (such as lead, cadmium, mercury) and certain bromine-containing flame retardants. As a result of these changes, cablemakers and polymer compound suppliers have made significant changes to eliminate or reduce the quantity of these substances in their products.
Embodied Energy and Efficiency in Use
The usage of energy in a building throughout its life dominates carbon emissions, so true green buildings should focus on maximising in-use energy efficiency. For electrical systems this includes the use of low energy lighting and air conditioning / heating solutions, and minimising electrical distribution losses. Two approaches are of value: cable sizing (too low a cross sectional area means they will run hotter and with greater losses) and cable routing to eliminate excessive cable length. Evidence is beginning to emerge that increasing the size of low voltage distribution cables will reduce carbon emissions and that this can pay back in as little as 10 years. However, in today’s economic climate, will end users be prepared to pay the upfront costs?
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