Editorial

by Alex Apostolov, Editor-in-Chief

It Is Time to Do It

After more than ten years after the publication of Edition 1 of IEC 61850 and tens of thousands of substation all over the world in service with different levels of its implementation, there are still people that need to be convinced to make the switch.

And this is actually not surprising. It reminds me of a personal experience. In the 1980’s I was a relatively young protection engineer given the task to develop what we call today a System Integrity Protection Scheme (SIPS).
This was the time when programmable logic controllers were already being widely used in industrial automation, but the protection and control of the electric power system was still based on mostly electromechanical and some solid-state relays. I was really excited about microprocessor based technology, reading papers about digital protection and writing some myself.

So when it became clear what the functionality of the SIPS will be (after answering the What and Why questions), we got to the point of answering the How question. To me the obvious solution was to use a PLC to program the complex logic. I selected the device and the programming tools and went to meet the head of the protection department of the national grid. I made my presentation as convincing as I can, highlighting the flexibility and reliability of the technology, its use in critical industrial automation applications, the superior performance and anything else I can come up with.
When I finished, he looked at me and said “Over my dead body!” and that was the end of the conversation.
So I had to design a SIPS using hardwired electromechanical relays mounted on five panels. But that was the way they always did it.

We are in a rather similar situation today in many utilities. Even that IEC 61850 is already a well-established technology supported by all major protection, automation and control manufacturers and successfully running in thousands of substations, there are still a lot of people in our industry that are afraid of it.
I don’t think that it is because they do not understand the benefits.
I think it is because they are not comfortable with the new technology and the many benefits that are almost never discussed.
That is why we decided to dedicate this issue of the magazine to the development of a business case.
The articles are from utilities, manufacturers and consultants, giving different points of view that can convince the reader that this is the way to go based on the many benefits that the technology provides. At the same time we should not forget to analyze the risks.

The risks of using it are mostly related to the fact that it requires some organizational changes, an investment in training and the development of procedures adjusted to the specifics of the new technology.
I believe the risks are much bigger if we do not switch to IEC 61850. Not using the protection, automation and control solutions based on IEC 61850 and non-conventional instrument transformers has negative safety, reliability and cost effects.
As can be seen from the articles the benefits are much greater than the risks.
So don’t be afraid. Take the risks and reap the benefits. 

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."

T. S. Eliot

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