Drives and Controls Magazine
‘Smart’ breaker could cut power consumption by 15%
Published:  25 April, 2013

ABB has developed “the first low-voltage circuit breaker with integrated energy management functions”. It claims that the Emax 2 breaker can reduce power consumption by up to 15% if used instead of traditional breakers. It is designed to be used where large amounts of energy are being controlled and protected in a LV environment, such as in industrial and commercial buildings, and data centres.

ABB says that the breakers will usually pay for themselves within a year through the energy savings. It estimates that the technology has the potential to achieve annual savings of 5.8TWh across the EU – equivalent to the electric consumption of 1.4 million homes.

The breaker contains a protection trip relay with an integrated power controller that measures and evaluates energy consumption, then manages connected loads to maintain or reduce the peak power usage. This will also help prevent blackouts caused by peak demands that exceed the supply.

The breaker manages energy by switching the electricity supply to non-essential equipment off, and back on again as soon as acceptable power levels are reached. A built-in “intelligent” controller decides when it is appropriate to switch the power while maintaining the functionality or productivity of the connected equipment.

A communication module allows the breaker to share consumption and system reliability data with smart grids and other parties.

“Breakers provide one of the largest untapped opportunities in the electric system to achieve energy savings,” says Tarak Mehta, head of ABB’s LV products division. “Breakers have traditionally been used to increase safety and protect electric circuits, but now for the first time we use them to save energy too.

“Because breakers are all around us, the total energy savings potential is massive,” he adds. “It’s a great example of how we can use smart technology to reduce energy wastage.”