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Sizing of protective earthing conductor

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General rules of electrical installation design
Connection to the MV utility distribution network
Connection to the LV utility distribution network
MV and LV architecture selection guide for buildings
LV Distribution
Protection against electric shocks and electric fires
Sizing and protection of conductors
LV switchgear: functions and selection
Overvoltage protection
Energy Efficiency in electrical distribution
Power Factor Correction
Power harmonics management
Characteristics of particular sources and loads
PhotoVoltaic (PV) installation
Residential and other special locations
ElectroMagnetic Compatibility (EMC)


Figure G58 below is based on IEC 60364-5-54. This table provides two methods of determining the appropriate c.s.a. for both PE or PEN conductors.

c.s.a. of phase

conductors Sph (mm2)

Minimum c.s.a. of

PE conductor (mm2)

Minimum c.s.a. of

PEN conductor (mm2)

Cu Al
Simplified method[a] Sph ≤ 16 Sph[b] Sph[c] Sph[c]
16 < Sph ≤ 25 16 16
25 < Sph ≤ 35 25
35 < Sph ≤ 50 Sph/2 Sph/2
Sph > 50 Sph/2
Adiabatic method Any size \definecolor{bggrey}{RGB}{234,234,234}\pagecolor{bggrey}S_{PE/PEN}=\frac {\sqrt {I^2 . t} }{k} [c][d]

[a]  Data valid if the prospective conductor is of the same material as the line conductor. Otherwise, a correction factor must be applied.
[b]  When the PE conductor is separated from the circuit phase conductors, the following minimum values must be respected:
     - 2.5 mm2 if the PE is mechanically protected
     - 4 mm2 if the PE is not mechanically protected
[c]  For mechanical reasons, a PEN conductor, shall have a cross-sectional area not less than 10 mm2 in copper or 16 mm2 in aluminium.
[d]  Refer to table A.54 of IEC60364-4-54 or table G63 to get values of k factor.

Fig. G58Minimum cross section area of protective conductors

The two methods are:

  • Adiabatic (which corresponds with that described in IEC 60724)
This method, while being economical and assuring protection of the conductor against overheating, leads to small c.s.a.’s compared to those of the corresponding circuit phase conductors. The result is sometimes incompatible with the necessity in IT and TN schemes to minimize the impedance of the circuit earth-fault loop, to ensure positive operation by instantaneous overcurrent tripping devices. This method is used in practice, therefore, for TT installations, and for dimensioning an earthing conductor[1]
  • Simplified
This method is based on PE conductor sizes being related to those of the corresponding circuit phase conductors, assuming that the same conductor material is used in each case.
Thus, in Figure G58 for:
Sph ≤ 16 mm2 : SPE = Sph
16 < Sph ≤ 35 mm2 : SPE = 16 mm2
Sph > 35 mm2 : S_{PE}=\frac {Sph}{2}

Note: when, in a TT scheme, the installation earth electrode is beyond the zone of influence of the source earthing electrode, the c.s.a. of the PE conductor can be limited to 25 mm2 (for copper) or 35 mm2 (for aluminium).

The neutral cannot be used as a PEN conductor unless its c.s.a. is equal to or larger than 10 mm2 (copper) or 16 mm2 (aluminium).

Moreover, a PEN conductor is not allowed in a flexible cable. Since a PEN conductor functions also as a neutral conductor, its c.s.a. cannot, in any case, be less than that necessary for the neutral.

This c.s.a. cannot be less than that of the phase conductors unless:

  • The kVA rating of single-phase loads is less than 10% of the total kVA load, and
  • Imax likely to pass through the neutral in normal circumstances, is less than the current permitted for the selected cable size.

Furthermore, protection of the neutral conductor must be assured by the protective devices provided for phase-conductor protection.

Values of factor k to be used in the formulae

These values are identical in several national standards, and the temperature rise ranges, together with factor k values and the upper temperature limits for the different classes of insulation, correspond with those published in IEC60364-5-54, Annex A.

The data presented in Figure G59 are those most commonly needed for LV installation design.

k values Nature of insulation
Polyvinylchloride (PVC) Cross-linked-polyethylene (XLPE)

Ethylene-propylene-rubber (EPR)

Final temperature (°C) 160 250
Initial temperature (°C) 30 30
Insulated conductors not incoporated in cables or bare conductors in contact with cable jackets Copper 143 176
Aluminium 95 116
Steel 52 64
Conductors of a multi-core-cable Copper 115 143
Aluminium 76 94

Fig. G59k factor values for LV PE conductors, commonly used in national standards and complying with IEC60364-5-54 Annex A


  1. ^ Grounding electrode conductor