IEC 61850 the latest trends

Author: Christoph Brunner, it4power, Switzerland

IEC 61850 the latest trends

While I am writing this, WG10 just finished its winter meeting in Sochi, Russia. During this meeting, we finished the assessment of the feedback from the Interoperability Tests (IOP) that were held in October 2017 in New Orleans. So all identified issues are now either addressed or allocated to an activity that will address them.
These days, the part IEC 61850-6 will be published as Ed 2.1 - an important milestone. The work on the other parts for FDIS is still ongoing. The main reason for the delay is, that it was decided to add an Annex with detailed discussion of compatibility issues related to the data model between different versions of the standard. That requires some careful analysis.

As part of that annex, it is intended to define requirements for product implementations to make them compatible. As an example, to support future extensions of a common data class with new DAs of a known type, a client will be able to use GetDataDefinition or the SCL file to learn the new structure of the CDC. But we will also identify the kind of modifications of the standard that should be avoided. As an example, new revisions of a standard will not change the CDC of a DO; instead, they should introduce a new DO and deprecate the old one. We now expect circulation of FDIS for parts 7-2, 7-3 and 7-4 later this spring.

Another breakthrough in 2017 was achieved with the first publications of code components on the IEC website. The latest version of the schema files for IEC 61850-6, Ed 1 and Ed 2 are now available for download at
Also, IEC 61850-7-7 which defines the schema file for the electronic publication of the data model (so called namespace files) has been approved and will be published shortly. Once published, the name space files for IEC 61850-7-4 and 7-3, Ed 2 will also be made available for download at the above link.
After many years of work, we could publish in 2017 IEC 61850-7-500 - a guideline where we define how to model applications. Further, the guideline for basic application profiles (part 7-6) is close to being circulated as DTR. New work was started to model travel wave based fault location.

And finally, a first draft of the report on functional testing (10-3) was circulated. Modeling support on the generic aspects of IEC 61850 will also be provided by the future guideline part 7-5, where the work has begun.
With regard to DER and DA, good progress was made with the part 90-6 (model extensions for DA), the part 90-9 for storage systems and the revision of the core part 7-420 for DER models. The part 90-10 describing models for scheduling could be published.
A draft of a new guideline (part 1-2) discussing what needs to be considered when extending IEC 61850 is available. This is mainly intended for new domains and for product standards that apply IEC 61850. As an example, it describes how product specific extensions to a nameplate shall be modeled.

Still an important focus is improving engineering interoperability and engineering efficiency. While the Ed 2.1 of part 6 already added new requirements for configuration of the signal flow between IEDs, there is more planned:

  • One aspect is the work on improving the function modeling in SCL such that the semantic understanding of logical nodes (e.g. which instance of a PDIS is for the zone 1 earth fault, which one for the zone 1 phase fault) will be improved. This will be discussed in part 6-100
  • Another aspect is the improvement of the specification process from a user perspective. One target is to fully describe requirements for IEDs in a formal way. To verify the enhancements and new concepts for specification and engineering process in a multivendor environment, as part of a research project supported by the European community (OSMOSE), a demonstrator will be built

Related to that as well is the work on system management. What we are currently considering here are use cases of device management like firmware or software update from remote. We also look at the use case of replacement of a failed IED with a new one, without losing any IED local data like as an example the value of an operation counter of a switch.
All these new activities that we are addressing in the standards working groups illustrate that IEC 61850 is a growing and living standard. 


Christoph Brunner is the President of his own independent consulting company it4power LLC based in Switzerland. He has over 25 years of experience with knowledge across several areas within the Utility Industry and of technologies from the Automation Industry. He has worked as a project manager at ABB Switzerland Ltd in the area of Power Technology Products in Zurich / Switzerland where he was responsible for the process close communication architecture of the automation system. He is Convener of WG 10 of the IEC TC57 and is a member of WG 17, 18 and 19 of IEC TC57. He is senior member of IEEE-PES and IEEE-SA. He is an IEEE Fellow and he is active in several working groups of the IEEE-PSRC and a member of the PSRC main committee and the subcommittee H. He is international advisor to the board of the UCA international users group. 

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