REFA – Reconductoring Economic & Financial Analysis Tool

A first of its kind tool designed to help utility transmission planners better understand the financial, environmental and economic benefits of reconductoring upgrades, using traditional or advanced conductors.

Background: Why REFA?

Increasing power transmission capacity is key to achieving renewables targets while ensuring reliability and security of supply. Existing tools for transmission planning are either focused on system-wide techno-economic capacity expansion or detailed engineering line design. Therefore, there is a need for simple and intuitive tools that can compare different transmission capacity options (reconductoring, rebuild, voltage upgrade), assess economic performance of different conductor types, and provide an overall cost-benefit analysis of transmission projects. 

Night time view of transmission power lines

Power lines at sunset

What is REFA?

REFA is a tool created to help utility transmission planners better understand the financial, environmental and economic benefits of reconductoring upgrades by assessing cost-benefits of conductors in transmission upgrade projects.

It is designed to support utility transmission planners as well as grid planners, to evaluate options for transmission capacity upgrades and to understand the costs and benefits of conductors in each application.

What does REFA do?

Given transmission project data and a capacity requirement, the REFA model selects a set of conductors that are technically feasible, considering industry standards for current-temperature and sag calculations. The model then presents the least-cost option for each conductor class, considering a net-present value calculation over the lifetime of the project.  Additionally, the tool can integrate renewable energy and the potential to avoid CO2 emissions.

How should REFA be used?

REFA should be used as an intermediate step between transmission capacity expansion and detailed engineering power line design, enabling a simple techno-economic comparison of different options for transmission capacity upgrade. It can also be used to communicate these options to non-technical audiences.

The current version of the REFA tool runs a cost-benefit analysis of a line upgrade project for different infrastructure investment options. 

What specifically does the REFA tool provide utility trasnmission planners on a given transmission project?

  • Specify the location of the line upgrade project, for the tool to retrieve basic line information from available geographic and transmission system data;
  • Obtain a set of all feasible conductors for the specific project by using the standard sag-tension and temperature-ampacity calculations as constraints;
  • Compare infrastructure investment options (reconductoring or rebuild) for each project, considering the full net present value of a project;
  • Compare the economic performance of different conductor types (conventional and advanced conductors) for each application and identify least-cost solutions;
  • Understand the benefits of different capacity upgrade options in terms of renewable integration and CO2 impacts.
  • In short, REFA is designed to be a simple, technology neutral, calculator, where all inputs, including conductor and project characteristics, can be easily modified to reflect each particular application.

Who can access REFA?

REFA is a publicly available research tool and free to use.

What doesn't REFA do?

The objective of the REFA tool is to provide a simple and practical calculation of the overall economic and financial performance of reconductoring solutions, including advanced conductor technology solutions.  

As such, REFA does not conduct:

  • System-specific transmission expansion planning optimization;
  • Detailed studies on material properties;
  • Field testing on accelerated aging

REFA Tool Tutorial


  • REFA is the BETA instantiation of a research tool. It is intended exclusively for research to identify challenges that utilities face in evaluating the cost of planned distribution upgrades. 
  • While the outputs of the REFA tool may be useful to users, their management, and regulators, it is not intended to be used as a regulatory or financial instrument. 
  • While users may upload their own cost assumptions, this ability is intended only to allow for customization for a specific query. 
  • Data is not saved or warehoused and each time a user elects to customize cost inputs, that query will need to be re-run. User data is also not collected. Use of this tool is at one's own risk.

This work is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity and conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

For questions/comments, please email with REFA in the subject line.

Team Members

Technical Contact
Matt Nerzig
Media Contact

Reconductoring Economic and Financial Analysis Tool (REFA) Copyright (c) 2024, The Regents of the University of California, through Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (subject to receipt of any required approvals from the U.S. Dept. of Energy). All rights reserved. If you have questions about your rights to use or distribute this software, please contact Berkeley Lab's Intellectual Property Office at