Handling the Users Feedback on IEC 61850

Author:Christoph Brunner, it4power, Switzerland

Last week I attended the IEC 61850 interoperability (IOP) testing that was organized by the UCA international users group. More than 15 vendors tested during 6 days interoperability of Client / Server communication, GOOSE messaging, Sampled Value Transmission as well as the engineering process using the substation configuration language (SCL). In addition, a group of Ethernet Switch providers verified the interoperability and performance of Ethernet Switches for redundancy protocols.

Such interoperability testing does not only help to improve the quality of the products; it is also important to verify that the products and the standard fulfill the requirements of the end users. About a year ago I discussed in my column the feedback provided by ENTSO-E to IEC 61850. The IOP was also addressing the concerns that have been raised by ENTSO-E. In particular, the use cases behind the SCL test cases focused on providing a vendor independent and open Engineering Process as requested by ENTSO-E and other utilities.

It is important for the further development of IEC 61850, that all stakeholders – vendors, users and standardization working groups with members from both vendors and users – work together to ensure that the products built based on the standard fulfill the needs of the power industry.

The UCA International Users Group will take over an important role within that process by creating the link between the stakeholders. The IEC TC57, working group 10, responsible for the core standardization of IEC 61850 has created a task force (TF) dealing with feedback from the users. This task force will analyze and classify the feedback and decide on required actions.

The classification of the feedback typically determines as well the required action. Some of the feedback is due to the standard not being clear enough. In that case, a clarification is required which means that the WG has to modify the standard document. Much of the feedback received so far deals with the options offered by the standard and the resulting risk for lack of interoperability. In that case, it is recommended for the user to add restrictions to a requirement specification or to define a profile. In some cases, it may as well be decided to reduce the options of the standard. Another category of feedback deals with obvious misbehavior of products. This may result in recommendations to improve the conformance testing.

The user feedback will be collected through the UCA users group. It has to be noted that user feedback is different than the TISSUES (Technical issues) that are already collected since the publishing of the first version of IEC 61850. TISSUES are clearly identified technical issues with the standardization documents and can be submitted by any individual. User feedback deals with the usage of the standard based products by the end users and can only be submitted by utility organizations, by members of the UCA users group or by members of the IEC working groups. The collected feedback and the assessment by the TF user feedback will be made available through the UCA users group website.

The first input to the TF user feedback was the "Punch-List" created by ENTSO-E. So far, about half of the items have been analyzed by the task force. Some of the findings from the IOP 2013 will as well be submitted as user feedback.

The UCA users group will continue to organize interoperability testing for IEC 61850 in the future. It will closely work together with end users to define the use cases for IOP testing. A next IOP is planned for fall 2015. The ENTSO-E task force IEC 61850 committed to submit the use cases that can be used as a basis for the test cases for that IOP.
Overall, a process has been established that will continuously improve IEC 61850 and its products by collecting the user expectations and verifying that they are fulfilled through interoperability testing driven by the user expectations.

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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