Copper has a dominant market position in building wires and magnet wires, as well as in power distribution cables in select geographies. ICA’s focus is on growing these markets faster than they would on their own. 


2.1 Promotion of safe wiring practices in residential buildings 

Programs to promote safe wiring practices in residential buildings have been successfully run across the world. Three examples: 

2.1.1 Europe

As people become more affluent, they buy more electrical appliances. Some of these appliances consume more energy, while others simply require more outlets than are usually available in the average
older home. Both place increasing demands on domestic electrical installations, over 60% of which are under-maintained and potentially hazardous in Europe. 

Extrapolating the trends identified by the electrical safety campaign of ICA’s European arm, the European Copper Institute (ECI) back in 2004, the gap widens1.

The greater the demand, the greater the risk of personal injury and damaged property from electrical fires. The partnership between cablemakers, electrical contractors and national consumer groups has successfully persuaded home owners to inspect and renovate their electrical systems as illustrated by joint ECI-led or stimulated campaigns in a number of European Union (EU) States, where the growth in safety renovation has gone from under 1% of homes to over 4% since the early 2000’ – although two-thirds of homes require such renovation. Given that the demand for energy-efficient and automated installations is strengthening, and that there is expanded use of entertainment, home office and telemedicine, only a reliable and up–to-date electrical system can ensure these function effectively.

A two-pronged strategy has been successfully adopted to strengthen renovation, which also represents potential growth for the W&C market. At national and EU levels, government lobbying creates understanding of societal benefits from improving safety. This is achieved through having regulations changed and statutes passed (as in France, Belgium, Italy and the UK), and through actively involving organizations that represent the interests of key stake-holders (cablemakers, consumers, electrical contractors).  Stimulating local governments to subsidize inspection and renovation has been effectively achieved in Spain, where a partnership between consumer organizations and electrical contractors reaches half the population.

Issues to be addressed are political, statistical and attitudinal: it is challenging to persuade politicians to pursue a path that requires voters to invest in preemptive measures; the statistical base does not reflect the reality of the extent of fires caused by ageing installations; attitudes among users vary greatly depending on country and market sub-segment. Sadly, the same mechanisms are not universally in place as found for gas installations and for private vehicle safety testing. But, these challenges are by no means insurmountable.

ECI continues to build partnerships to expand the scope of residential electrical installation renovation. As homes built before 1970 account for over half the homes in the EU, the market potential is clearly significant.

2.1.2 Latin America 

A similar “Safe House Program” (Programa Casa Segura) has been run in Latin America since 2005, to raise the awareness of home owners and building managers about the need for improvements in the quality of electrical installations. The program encourages inspection and rewiring of older dwellings and embraces the whole supply chain, including electric utilities, electrical product manufacturers, insurance companies, dealers, brokers and consumer associations. 

A website and newsletter in Portuguese and Spanish ( provide guidance on how to inspect installations and hire a professional to rewire it, and information on safety and energy efficiency.  


As a result, five large cities (Buenos Aires, Lima, Mexico City, Santiago and Sao Paulo) have adopted inspections of older buildings. The results show that between 15 and 20% of inspections led to rewiring. Due to this encouraging result, ICA plans to invite more stakeholders and cities to support the Safe House Program. 

2.1.3 Asia

Countries like Japan and the Republic of Korea have developed national periodic home inspection schemes since the early 1960’s and are seen as practical examples for other Asian markets. In India, wiring practices in residential construction vary widely from the electrical codes due to weak enforcement, untrained installers and the presence of a many small (unorganized) cablemakers with inadequate quality standards.

This situation raises serious safety issues: 

- Use of substandard electrical wires
- Improper selection

Lack of planning for current and future use, resulting in overload  of too few outlets Inadequate or improper use of protective devices Improper earthing


ICA’s residential wiring project in India promotes safe wiring practices, thereby increasing the density of wiring per unit of constructed area. The project adopted a multi-pronged approach:


- Work with the Bureau of Indian Standards to upgrade standards and codes to international levels

- Upgrade wiring specifications of relevant government departments at national and regional levels

- Upgrade the training syllabus for new electricians

- Promote safe wiring practices with architects, builders and building consultants

- Training and certification of electrical contractors and electricians


During 2008, training programs reached over 25 000 contractors and electricians across 23 States. In addition, the project enabled W&C partners to differentiate themselves from the unorganized sector by providing a neutral platform. This generated sales and led to the launching of new products.


2.2 Power Quality in commercial buildings and industry

The ICA runs Power Quality (PQ) programs in Asia, Europe, Latin and North America. In Europe, the Leonardo ENERGY Power Quality Initiative (LPQI) campaign was created in 2001 by ICA’s European arm, the European Copper Institute (ECI), to provide design engineers, end-users (e.g., maintenance professionals) and business decision-makers with knowledge and best practices to improve PQ in the non-residential sector. The scope of the program has since been broadened to raise awareness among policy makers. A survey in 2007 determined that the annual cost of poor PQ for EU-25 countries’ industry and services exceeded € 150 billion, with a very high average cost per unique event.


Investment in solutions for the sectors surveyed is an EU-25 equivalent of about €50 billion annually. This survey showed that although poor PQ is mainly caused by the end users’ own installation, they tend to blame external causes for the events experienced.

In order to solve PQ issues, end users need to be aware of measurement and monitoring techniques, to be able to identify PQ phenomena, to be informed about solutions and state-of-the-art designs, and to be able to develop a financing strategy and selection of the most efficient actions.


The campaign delivers handbooks, easy- to-use investment datasheets and education material, as well as e-learning modules that help understand issues and solutions. The campaign has grown into a partnership of 100 authorities in the PQ field, from academic and polytechnic institutions to engineering companies. It published a library of application notes, articles, case studies, white papers, eBooks and e-learning modules and webinars. Overall, LPQI reaches 100,000 professionals each year across the world. 

The campaign is now developing a communication portfolio with multiple channels in actively promoting its existing content database, to:


  • increase the awareness of decision makers (CEO level)
  • inform frontline end-users about the need of PQ measurement
  • ensure design engineers have easy-to-use reference documents
  • help business professionals involved in the mitigating equipment purchase process to choose the best solution and invest wisely to decrease the cost impact of poor PQ.

Implications for Wire & Cable

As a content marketing initiative directly targeting professionals, PQ campaigns deliver useful and segmented information about:


- De-rating of equipment including cabling

- Redundant wiring

- Neutral sizing, separating neutral and earth

- Wire upsizing for lower impedance

Some techniques that influence use of W&C are:

Separation of Sensitive Electronic Loads from Other Equipment 

Standard and sensitive loads must not be mixed on the same circuitry (or panel boards, if at all possible). A dedicated “computer” circuit in each office is recommended which means separate phase wires, a separate neutral and a separate grounding conductor (possibly an isolated ground, too), all run in a separate metal conduit back to the source. 

Limited Number of Outlets per Circuit

A maximum of three to six outlets per circuit is recommended, thus minimizing the chance for interaction between equipment. This technique creates the need for additional circuits.

Grounding Conductor

A separate, full-size copper grounding conductor is essential to assure a continuous, low-impedance path to ground.      

Voltage Drop

Although Electric codes allow for up to a 3 to 4% voltage drop in a general branch circuit, the recommended practice is to design for no more than a 1% voltage drop at full load on branch circuits feeding sensitive equipment. Feeder voltage drop should not exceed 2%. That means conductor sizes should often be larger than required than code minimum. 

Isolated Grounds (IG)

Isolated grounding, or earthing, is a technique that attempts to reduce the chances of “noise” entering sensitive equipment through the grounding conductor. A separate conductor is run to the panel board with the rest of the circuit conductors, but is usually insulated from the enclosure and run all the way through to the ground bus of the service equipment (or the ground connection of a separately derived system).

Double-size Neutrals or Separate Neutrals per Phase

Harmonics can be easily handled by using double-size neutrals (alternatively, separate neutrals can be used for each phase conductor).

W&C manufacturers who partner within Europe’s LPQI are involved in various actions such as:


- Joint projects, like the PQ survey, design practice assessment, policy report and benchmarking

- Production of educational materials

- Webinars

- Outreach & Promotion 

They benefit from extensive coverage, either through the website or through its chapters in many regions. 

Cable manufacturers who joined the initiative appreciate positioning themselves as solutions providers for a promising and growing market, and to be a part of a community which builds the vision of future energy systems. They are also put in direct contact with the biggest worldwide audience of concerned sustainable energy professionals who are eager to find a solution during ad-hoc interactive events.

2.3  Building Energy Management

Building energy use is estimated at 32% of total final energy use globally. Lighting, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, elevators, water supply, drainage, appliances’ power supply and emergency power are the main energy consumers in buildings. Building automation systems can monitor and control the operation of these systems and thereby reduce energy waste and maintenance costs, with the added benefit of increasing service life. For the W&C industry, the use of building automation systems means more sensors and, therefore, more communication wires. 


Major barriers for adoption of building energy management in new construction are the absence of mandatory energy conservation codes, higher initial investments, and the divergence of interests between developers (who invest)  and users (who benefit). At the same time, there are hundreds of thousands of existing commercial buildings with unreasonably high levels of energy consumption, ICA programs in China and India, for example, work with governments to create mandatory energy codes for buildings, and to create awareness among developers, users and stakeholders.

2.4  Electrical power distribution and use

Energy security and climate change are destined to become dominant themes in the 21st century.

Energy efficient electrical equipment reduces energy consumption, which is an economic benefit, and also reduces the consumption of fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases. The simplest approach to improve the energy efficiency of appliances and equipment is to increase the cross-section of wires and cables to reduce energy losses.

2.4.1 Environmental and Economic Cable Sizing - Japan  

In conventional electrical engineering practice, the sizing of wires and cables for low-voltage applications is governed by thermal and electro-magnetic considerations. However, in the context of energy efficiency, the selection of higher cross-sections can result in lower energy losses. 

The Japanese arm of ICA, the Japan Copper Development Association (JCDA) has been working together with the Japan Cable Manufacturers Association (JCMA) since 2007 to develop new standards for cable selection to be called Japan Cable Standards (JCS) based on environmental and economic considerations, in addition to conventional electrical considerations.

The energy-saving theory is robust and needs to be substantiated by field trials, which began in 2008 and are expected to be completed by 2010. A cross-industry task-force was established with constructors, designers, users, government officials, and the Institute of Electrical Installation Engineers in order to carry out a feasibility study. The aim is to establish, by 2010, the new JCS defining increased cable sizes, to propose a new International Electrical Committee (IEC) standard by 2012, and to have the new JCS become mandatory in Japan by 2014.

JCDA and JCMA partner on this project. JCMA is responsible for operations, and is a liaison with research organizations and other industries.    

2.4.2 Energy Efficient Equipment

Although energy-efficient products are economically profitable during their lifecycle, consumers (individual, institutional or commercial) often buy products that are not efficient because they often make decisions based on least expensive first cost. The challenge is to educate them, and to create supportive policies, standards and incentive mechanisms.

To give an example, electric motors consume 40% of all global electricity according the International Energy Agency (IEA).


Because motors typically consume 10-25 times their purchase price in electricity each year, even small increases in efficiency add up to large energy savings and make premium efficiency motors a cost-effective upgrade. For example, in the USA, NEMA Premium motors are typically constructed with superior materials, more copper magnet wire and with tighter tolerances.

Another example is Distribution Transformers (DT). To transmit electricity efficiently, it must be “stepped up” to high voltages. After transmission, it is “stepped down” to lower voltages for use in factories, buildings and homes. These voltage changes are made by transformers, which, in simplistic terms, contain two or more coils of wire wound around a laminated core of magnetically permeable material. They are installed by the utility or by large end-users such as factories and commercial buildings. 

DTs can be upgraded to higher efficiency by increasing the mass of winding wire and, where space is limited, substitute aluminum for more conductive copper to reduce the load losses. Because DTs are so widely used and have long life spans (30 years on average), even small improvements in efficiency result in large energy savings. Studies estimate potential savings of 200TWh (200 terra-watt hours) globally, equivalent to the electricity consumption of the Benelux countries.


ICA’s Energy Efficiency programs

ICA’s commitment to Energy Efficiency is evidenced by a robust Sustainable Electrical Energy (SEE) initiative, with market transformation programs aimed at inducing lasting structural and behavioral changes in the marketplace, resulting in increased adoption of energy-efficient products and appliances, building wires and power cables.


These programs are aimed at a variety of audiences ranging from utilities to industries, as well as the general public. ICA conducts training programs to build the capacity of energy efficiency advocates and works with policymakers in various countries to raise and globally harmonize minimum efficiency performance standards (MEPS) to levels that reflect the best available economic level of technology. Finally, ICA works towards the creation of incentive mechanisms, such as programmatic Carbon Development Mechanism (CDM), to improve the penetration of energy efficient products.

ICA invests millions of dollars annually in such programs. Several countries introduced minimum standards and the ICA Network remains proactive in making the case for mandatory standards, advocating the positive economic and environmental impact. As an example, the ICA’s U.S. center, the Copper Development Association, joined the National Electrical Manufacturers Association and many other organizations to convince the U.S. Congress to mandate NEMA Premium 3-phase industrial motors as MEPS by the end of 2010. The resulting increase per motor in copper magnet wire ranges from an average 20% to as much as 100%, depending on design and model.