Where are we today with IEC 61850?

Author:Christoph Brunner, it4power, Switzerland

Now, ten years later, where are we with IEC 61850? I would estimate that in the meantime more than 5,000 substations worldwide are equipped with IEC 61850. So obviously, IEC 61850 can be considered as a well-established standard. While I was visiting DistribuTECH in January, I learned from a US utility that it had recently successfully commissioned its first IEC 61850 substation - on their own - not as a project supplied by one of the big vendors. In a country that is known as being rather hesitant with IEC 61850, this is a positive surprise. And it is a good example that sometimes it is worth to just attempt a project with a new technology instead of only discussing it. Last but not least, it shows as well that apparently IEC 61850 products are ready to be used by utilities without the need to fully depend on the supplier.

Nevertheless, the working groups dealing with IEC are busy in doing further development of the IEC 61850 series.

As always with my first IEC 61850 column of the year, I will try to provide an update on some of the ongoing standardization activities for IEC 61850.

With regard to the core IEC 61850 documents for substation automation, significant effort has recently be brought in by the editors in order to complete the revision of the UML models and to prepare the publication of the Edition 2.1 that is auto generated from the UML model. As already mentioned earlier, this Edition will incorporate technical issues discovered during the implementation of the Edition 2 products and during the preparation of the UML models.

Last year, a first draft of the planned technical report IEC 61850-7-500 was published. This report provides a collection of modeling guidelines for substation automation applications using the existing logical nodes. With regard to new models, a first draft of the planned technical report IEC 61850-90-3 was circulated that provides object models for condition monitoring of primary equipment like switchgear, power transformers or power lines. Also, the work on creating models for FACTS has made significant progress.

With regard to the engineering process, the new task force created last year that works on defining the SCL extensions for describing functions and sub-functions has started its work and the task force to describe logic modeling made good progress.

In WG 17 one of the focuses was in the finalization of a first draft for IEC 61850-90-15, a technical report describing the models for DER integration into the Grid. Also, the document for modeling schedules is close to a first circulation. And finally, WG18 made progress on the extensions of the models for steam and gas turbines.

While all these activities will further expand the capabilities of IEC 61850, it is of course important to bear in mind the stability of the standard and its products. I recently had an interesting discussion with experts from a utility that are planning the technical solution of their substations for the next years. One of their major concerns regarding IEC 61850 was the life cycle of the technology and products. They are worried that with all the progressing versions of the standard, they will not be able to maintain their automation and protection equipment during the expected life cycle without a need to continuously upgrade already installed equipment.

This indicates a topic that in my opinion shall become a key activity of the standardization work in 2014. Besides the required progress with the ongoing activities, it is important that we consolidate as well the current status. With Edition 2 products starting to become available, we need – together with the UCA users group that develops the conformance test procedures – establish a process for the maintenance of various editions of our specifications. And we need to develop plausible concepts how IEC 61850 products including the tools of various editions can coexist in a future system.

If we succeed with that, I am pretty sure that we will see in the future a further growth of the acceptance of IEC 61850 worldwide.

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.

BeijingSifang June 2016