Towards machine readable IEC 61850 models

Author: Christoph Brunner, Switzerland

With the expansion of the scope of IEC 61850 beyond the substation, the number of logical nodes and data objects has significantly grown over the last years. In the meantime, specifications for logical nodes and common data classes are spread in various standard documents produced by different working groups.
To keep all the definitions together in one place, IEC TC57 / WG10 has worked already since some time on the preparation of a UML model to define all the logical nodes, data objects and common data classes. Such a model not only provides one single place for all the model definitions, it as well supports by its formal specification,  the consistency of the models.

The final goal is to publish the models as a database standard and to make them available in an electronic format that can directly be used for product development like tools or IEDs.
Instead of requiring the reader of the standard to scan through hundreds of document pages, it shall be possible to browse through the models on a website. The use of the electronic version of the models for product development will improve the product quality. It is also intended to integrate the TISSUE process. The transition to that final stage however, will be stepwise.

Over the last two years, the UML model has been prepared. Since this was to a large extent a manual process, careful validation of the model against the standard was required. During that conversion process, many inconsistencies in the current standard documents could be identified, and were fixed and published as TISSUES.

  • The conversion of the parts 7-3 and 7-4 is almost completed
  • Work for the parts 7-410 and 7-420 is ongoing

It is now possible to generate the standard parts 7-4 and 7-3 directly from that UML model. As a first step, it is planned to publish an Edition 2.1 of IEC 61850-7-4 and IEC 61850-7-3 that will be auto generated from the UML model. Edition 2.1 will be based on Edition 2 but will incorporate all TISSUES that have been solved so far. This should be completed by the end of this year.

From that moment on, the UML model will be the basis for all Editor Work; however, the official standard reference will still be the auto generated document.

By Spring 2013 it is planned:

  • To have the standard available for online browsing at the IEC web-site
  • To distribute electronic version of the models in XML format

It will then be possible to publish as well "proposed" models based on TISSUE resolutions in addition to the "approved" model. However, at that stage, the auto generated document will still be the official reference.

The final step will be the conversion of the TISSUE process to the IEC procedures for change requests related to database standards. Normally, IEC standards are published as documents, and the voting takes place on the different stages like CDV or FDIS. However, in some cases, standards may be published as "database standards." In that case, the voting procedures are different and can be made on individual pieces. This is planned as the ultimate stage for the IEC 61850 models. Documents may still be produced in a similar way as before, but from that moment on, the database will be the official reference. This is planned to be achieved by Spring 2014.So with that, we will not only be able to publish all current and future models in one location, but we expect as well to produce more consistent models in the future, and finally, we will have the possibility to publish proposed modifications based on TISSUES.


Christoph Brunner graduated as an Electrical Engineer at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in 1983. He is President of it4power in Zug, Switzerland. Before, he worked as a project manager at ABB Switzerland Ltd in the business area Power Technology Products in Zurich where he was responsible for the communication architecture of the substation automation system. He is Convenor of working group (WG) 10 and member of WG 17, 18 and 19 of IEC TC57. He is an IEEE Fellow. As a member of IEEE-PES and IEEE-SA, he is active in several working groups of the IEEE-PSRC. He is International Advisor to the board of the UCA International Users Group. 

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