20 years of IEC 61850

Author:Christoph Brunner, it4power, Switzerland


This fall it will be 20 years since we started with the endeavor of IEC 61850.  As you remember, we initially had three working groups in IEC TC57 dealing with the development of the first part of IEC 61850: WG10, WG11 and WG12. WG11 and WG12 were focused on the station respectively process bus while WG10 was responsible for the global parts.
From these original members of the WGs, there are only a few left that are still active at the current moment. Many of them have since retired.

When we started, we had never foreseen the standard to become what it is now - a global standard applicable for all areas of power utility automation focused on the technical information exchange to the various devices that create what we call today a Smart Grid. At the time we started, the term Smart Grid was not yet invented - even though the electrical power network was already smart.
Nobody was talking about integration of DERs in the grid - there were however already wind power plants like those in the Coachella Valley in California.

The initial motivation for IEC 61850 was, to develop a communication standard that enables interoperability between devices in a substation automation system. 
So basically, to have an open standard that enables the exchange of information from protection and other IEDs with a SCADA system through the substation communication gateway. What we have today, as you all know, is much more.  So let’s have a look at the current activities on the standardization front.

We are still working on finalizing the Edition 2.1 of the core parts of the standard.  We hope to be ready for a first circulation this spring. About extensions of the data models for new domains, some progress was reached as well. The document defining the models for condition monitoring of power equipment (part 90-3) was approved as DTR so the publication should soon be available.

An amendment of the models for Hydro Power Plants (part 7-410) with extensions to allow usage in thermal power plants for power evacuation related components such as excitation, synchronization, frequency and active power control as well as electrical protection devices has passed the CDV stage.  And on the DER side, a first draft of models for schedules has been circulated (part 90-10).  In the first half of 2015, we expect a couple of other drafts with models for new domains to be circulated: a first draft of the models for distribution automation (part 90-6), a second draft of the models for electrical vehicles (part 90-8), a first draft of the models for FACTS (part 90-14) as well as a first draft of the models for power quality (part 90-17).

With regard to the more communication related topics, it was decided to revise the technical specification for the mapping on 101/104 protocol (part 80-1) to be in line with Ed 2.1 of IEC 61850-7-3.  A first draft of the mapping on DLMS (part 80-4) is in circulation.  WG17 is working on the new mapping on web services (part 8-2), a CD should be available soon.

A significant agreement was reached during the last WG10 meeting in Tokyo with regard to time synchronization based on IEEE 1588. Prior to that, there was a disagreement about requirements - and as a consequence about the solution - between the related IEEE and IEC working groups with the risk to create two competing, incompatible standards. Finally it was decided to standardize a minimal common denominator as a new part IEC 61850-9-3.  So, this part will define a profile for accurate time synchronization based on IEEE 1588.

Besides this, the work related to the improvement of the overall engineering and design is making progress. We started to develop a concept to define and standardize function and sub-function types as part of the SCL description of the application. We are working together with end users on the definition of requirements for compatibility between versions of the standard and we are clarifying the concept of namespace usage.
So overall, I think a lot of progress has been made over the last few years with the standard.  While this was not necessarily visible in terms of documents published so far, I expect for 2015 the progress to become visible in terms of updates and publication of new parts as well as the usage of the standard 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. 

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