The circularity of medium-power electrical transformers

The circularity of medium-power electrical transformers

Vol. 9 Issue 1

Evaluating design options based on an in-depth market survey


In its Green Deal and the new Circular Economy Action Plan, the EU has been emphasising that the energy transition should be accomplished with maximum resource efficiency. The revised Methodology for Ecodesign of Energy-related Products (MEErP), published in July 2021, translated this ambition into concrete decision-making instruments promoting the systematic assessment of material efficiency and recyclability in product design. The present article focuses on design-for-recycling for medium-power transformers.

A first major observation is that medium-power transformers remain in use for a very long time. The depreciation period is typically 40 years, but their actual lifetime can be much longer — usually more than 50 years and sometimes even 80 years [1]. This long lifetime is a major strength in terms of material efficiency but comes with the complication that long-term recyclability assessment is a challenge. It is impossible to accurately predict where recycling markets, technologies, and regulations will stand 50 years from now. We have to make do with rough assessments based on today’s market and technology, keeping in mind that the results should be viewed in light of an uncertain future.

With this goal in mind, the Copper Alliance carried out an in-depth survey of the current state of transformer recycling, conducting interviews at 20 stakeholder companies in Germany, Spain, Italy, France, and Serbia (a full list of the interviewed companies can be found in [2]). The data collected in the survey were processed and approved following the Delphi method. All statements in the chapters that follow in this article are based on the survey results, except where otherwise indicated.