IEC 61850 Update Industry Updates

The latest news from working group 10

by Christoph Brunner, it4power, Switzerland

A week ago, we had our working group (WG) meeting in Delft in the Netherlands, and it is time to give you again an overview on which topics we currently spend our time in this WG.

We are finalizing some of our parts on which we worked for quite some years and expect them to be published during 2024. Those include part 90-21 with object models for travel-wave based fault location and part 90-22 discussing SCL (System Configuration Language – part 6) based configuration of the communication network. It is intended to test mechanisms described in part 90-22 during the IOP 2024. I will talk more about the IOP later in this column.

We also expect part 90-30 to be finished this year. That is the part, that originally started as part 6-100 and includes many extensions to SCL that support a fully digital specification of a project and an approach to describe functions and applications with a better semantic than just the logical node classes. That part is closely linked to part 7-6 on basic application profiles, where the second edition adds a method, to describe a basic application profile as a template in SCL.

Other parts where we will publish a first edition this year are part 90-20, discussing use cases for redundant devices, and part 80-5, the mapping of Modbus on IEC 61850. Both of those parts will initially be published with a limited scope, but we plan to directly continue working on adding more content in a second edition. The reason for that is, that we want to have a first document that we can use and get more feedback for adding additional content.

All the parts mentioned so far, were started as technical reports (TR). Within the IEC 61850, we adopted long time ago the approach to introduce new features first as a part by its own as TR, basically to gain experience with the topic and only later integrate it into the standard. The corresponding namespaces were called “transitional namespace.” When integrating those in the standard, changes were possible without considering backwards compatibility to the transitional namespace. But now, the IEC guidelines have changed – it is now strictly enforced, that a technical report is not allowed to include requirements (“shall”.) So, parts that were written to be later directly included in the core part of the standard (like model extensions for a specific domain) cannot be published anymore as a TR. What we are using now is a so called “Public available specification” or PAS. So many of the parts, where we started working as a TR are now changed to become a PAS. To initiate that, Questionnaires are sent to the national committees to ask for approval.

This applies to the ongoing work related to role-based access (part 90-19), validation specification for GOOSE and SV messages (90-28), specification of physical I/Os (90-29) as well, as the second edition of the models for condition monitoring (90-3.)

We expect to publish the second amendment to edition 2 of part 6 this year as well. 

Recently, we started the next edition of part 1. This will become part 1-1 (as we created a part 1-2.) It must be noted that, as this is a new number, the part will be “IEC 61850-1-1, Edition 1” and not edition 3. Remember – while IEC talks about edition and amendment (both identified with a number,) for IEC 61850 we use together with the namespace identification version (identified with a year; corresponding to edition,) revision (identified with a letter; corresponding to amendment) and release (identified with a number, corresponding to implemented technical issues (TISSUE) and possibly a corrigenda.)  So, in the future, we should not talk anymore about editions, but rather of (namespace) versions.

We also decided to start revisions of part 90-14 (FACTS / HVDC), 90-4 (LAN engineering guidelines with models for communication equipment,) 4 (system and project management) and 10-3 (functional testing.)

Work is ongoing as well for the revision of parts 7-5 and 7-500 – our guidelines for modeling. For part 7-5, which is the generic part, we include a detailed specification of mode / behavior. For part 7-500, which is the substation specific part, we are working on modeling withdrawable circuit breakers. As those parts do not contain model descriptions, possible model extensions will go in a part 90-25. We just decided to start to discuss topology modeling and applications as another feature of part 7-500.

The model for the withdrawable circuit breaker is written as a BAP (basic application profile according to part 7-6.)  And this brings me back to the IOP 24 (Interoperability testing organized by the UCA international users’ group.)  This year, we will again do functional testing, and we will describe the functionalities as BAPs.

As a last topic – over the last year we had an ad hoc task force working on a “Golden SCL.” This is an example substation design with models and with the add-on of an SCL file describing the substation. That is planned to be published as TR with the SCL file as code component.


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 TC 57. He is member of IEEE-PES and IEEE-SA. He is an IEEE Fellow and is active in several working groups of the IEEE-PSRC and a member of the PSRC main committee and the subcommittee H. He is advisor to the board of the UCA international users’ group.