Editorial Opinions

Editorial – Issue 054 December 2020

Ask the experienced…

by Alex Apostolov, Editor-in-Chief

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Our industry has been working on the development of the IEC 61850 standard for more than a quarter of a century. We already have thousands of substations with different levels of implementation of the standard, but since our industry is quite conservative, there are still many people that are sticking to what they know.

That is why we decided to focus the attention of this issue of the magazine on the experience with the standard applications. The experience with the IEC 61850 standard was building up from the very beginning of its development. In North America we started with the Utility Communications Architecture (UCA) 2.0 that introduced the concepts of object modeling and high-speed peer-to-peer communications with GOOSE messages.

What was amazing is that people started implementing these concepts and testing the interoperability between the different implementations at the very early stages of the standard development. This experience was helping us understand the challenges that we were facing in making it meet the requirements for improving the reliability, security and efficiency of the electric power grid. What makes things even more challenging is that the IEC 61850 standard is not just another communications protocol,but it also defines a new engineering environment that supports the full life cycle of the protection, automation and control systems.

Because of that, in this issue of the magazine we included articles that address all these different aspects. The cover story is a summary of the results from the interoperability testing that was performed in 2019, bringing together manufacturers and software developers from all over the world to try to find out any potential problems with the implementation of the standard based on a specific simplified substation one-line diagram. This represents a very focused an intense experience that is practically impossible to achieve in any conventional development environment.

It is a fact that the application of IEC 61850 is picking up speed all over the world, as shown by the development of fully digital substations not only in Europe, North America and China, but also in many other countries like Peru.

Many of the articles in the previous issues of the magazine related to IEC 61850 standard applications have been focused on substation protection and control. However, with the growing confidence in its capabilities and the positive experience with improving the performance of different protection schemes using high-speed peer-to-peer communications, many utilities are starting to take advantage of the technology outside of the substation. This is demonstrated by different applications to distribution automation, as well as system integrity protection schemes (SIPS) that are enabled by the development of routable GOOSE messages.

One of the most complex issues in the development of any protection automation and control system is its engineering. That is why it is important to highlight the significant benefits that the standard brings to the engineering process. Experience from the engineering of IEC 61850 based substations during the last decade is helping identify methods to further improve its efficiency.

Some of the challenges with the use of any new technology have to do with building the confidence of the users in its capabilities and reliability. This confidence can be developed only based on proper testing of the functionality and performance of the different protection, automation and control schemes and applications.

Like many other things in life, the process of learning goes through several different stages. First, we need to hear about something, then try to understand if it is going to work for you, and finally make sure that it really works through experiencing it. That is why we have to follow these steps in our IEC 61850 implementation process as well and start by listening not to the people that have learned it, but the ones that have experienced it.

“Ask the experienced rather than the learned.”

Arabian Proverb