Auguste’s Second Life

Through refurbishment, LBS Auguste’s normal 25-year life can be extended another 20 years.

Auguste is an overhead load-break switch (LBS) produced by Ensto in Bagnères-de-Bigorre, France. It is the only LBS on the market with the safe advantage of an embedded voltage transformer.

Auguste is well known as a fail-proof solution to reconfigure a network in the event of problem, isolating a faulty section and allowing the maximum number of customers to remain with electrical service. Auguste's technology employs SF6 gas, sulfur hexafluoride, used to reduce isolation distance and better extinguish an electric arc compared to air.

The product’s design life is 25 years, and it's popular with customers like CAMEG, Algeria’s national electricity provider. So far, more than 10,000 units are at work in Africa, with an additional 6,000 working in France. Now, thanks to Ensto’s refurbishment program, Auguste’s life can be extended an additional 20 years.

Customers win

Refurbishment means the unit is removed from the field and transported to the factory in Bagnères-de-Bigorre. The SF6 gas is removed from the unit, and a careful inspection of the medium-voltage switch is performed sky skilled specialists using dedicated equipment. To optimize Auguste's second life, it's also possible, upon a customer's request, to add a pressure sensor or add sensors with increased accuracy.

Once refurbishment is complete, SF6 gas is replaced in the unit, and it is shipped back to the customer for reinstallation in the field where it may serve its network for an additional two decades.

Customers win by knowing that the Auguste unit has been checked by the manufacturer to ensure its operational integrity and upgraded, when desired, with the latest technology. Economically speaking, the refurbished Auguste costs roughly half the price of a new unit. The customer also gets peace of mind, knowing that there is no chance of leakage of SF6 gas in an old unit.

Enedis chooses refurbishment

One customer who recently benefitted from an Auguste refurbishment is Enedis, which manages public electricity distribution network for 95 percent of continental France.

Enedis upgraded 34 Auguste units in 2020, and has begun 23 refurbishments in 2021. Enedis’ Bertrand Clot, Medium Voltage Overhead Lines Team Leader, says there were two reasons for choosing refurbishment. "We wanted to avoid the manufacturing of a new device with all that that implies environmentally. The other reason is economic: the cost of a refurbished Auguste is less than that of a new one.”

Clot was also impressed by Ensto’s speed. "The upgrade was extremely fast — just a month and a half. This is very competitive and even less than the time for receiving a new device. The quick reconditioning times meant that our business was not impacted due to downtime."

The environment wins

Julien Grégoire, Ensto’s Customer Support Specialist, says that while price is important to customers, there is real growth in the general consciousness about sustainability and the way we consume, and everyone appreciates the fact that Auguste’s life can be nearly doubled.

“We have a chain of retail appliance stores across France now with the slogan, ‘Don’t throw it out, repair it,’” says Grégoire. “Even though the shop sells new televisions and washing machines, they still advocate repairing your old ones after the warranty has expired. Most everyone understands that we have to change the way we consume.” To that end, a dedicated spare parts catalog for Auguste is also in the works. In addition, Ensto also offers refurbishment for its IA2T air break switch controller, though this product is used only in France.

Grégoire spends up to 75 percent of his time on the road in Europe, Africa, and Russia dedicated to Auguste, where he assists with installations and troubleshooting. “We really are giving a second life to Auguste,” he says. “And both the customer and the environment are the winners.”