Design of a circular supply chain for electricity grid components

A Stedin case study

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In light of the energy transition and resulting electrification of the energy systems in the Netherlands, Distribution System Operators (DSOs) need to rapidly expand their operations to facilitate consumers. At the same time, their own activities need to become more sustainable as well. One of the important methods for this is integrating the principles of the circular economy in their supply chains (SCs).
This study focuses on designing a circular supply chain (CSC) for the redeployment and recycling of components from the electricity grid. It combines two CSC design methods, the SCOP method and the CSC guiding framework, with the Evolved Double Diamond to guide the design process. Throughout the entire design project other methods are used to generate input or boundaries for the design like qualitative workshops, data analysis, brainstorming and MCDA techniques for evaluation.
As a case study a design project is done for the Dutch DSO Stedin which allows to develop a concrete design, identify key remaining design decisions and develop an elaboration and evaluation framework to guide Stedin in CSC design decision making. In this case study, the focus is on cables and transformers for all voltage levels as these assets are most important in reaching the sustainability targets of Stedin.
The combination of the design methods was helpful in structuring and inspiring the CSC design process but lacks more detailed steps a designer should take. The use of the MCDA in design component decision making instead of alternative evaluation does seem a new and useful technique in CSC design but needs further development.