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-> home > news > DistribuTech 2007-02 San Diego

IEC 61850 at the DistribuTech 2007 in San Diego (CA), February 04, 2007





MODERATOR: William Ackerman, Principal Consultant, Ackerman Associates, LLC

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 1:00 p.m.

The implementation of IEC 61850 technology requires a new approach to utility automation. This session will focus on IEC 61850 as a communications backbone, the impact of IEC 61850 on system engineering, and the requirements and benefits of IEC 61850 conformance testing.

IEC 61850 - Communication Backbone for the Utility Automation System of the Future [abstract]

AUTHOR: Christoph Brunner, President, UTInnovation, Switzerland

Impact of IEC 61850 on System Engineering, Tools, Peopleware and the Role of the System Integrator [abstract] , [paper] and [slides]

AUTHOR: Karlheinz Schwarz, SCC, Germany

IEC 61850: Role of Conformance Testing in Successful Integration


Dave Dolezilek, Sales and Customer Service Technology Director, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc., USA

Eric Udren, Senior Principal Consultant, KEMA T&D Consulting, USA

I look forward to seeing you there!

many new courses 2007
Power delivery systems:
Seminars and Training


The crucial focus of IEC 61850 is the provision of interoperability - the ability of two or more tools or intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) from the same or different vendors, to exchange information and use that information for correct execution of specified functions. Interoperability requires that all connected IEDs select the same hundreds of definitions from the standard, e.g., details on data models, services, stacks, and networks. The unique selections - done by engineering - will allow true interoperability to get rid of the mess of proprietary and non proprietary solution. This selection process is done by experienced engineers with the support of smart tools. Tools are also needed for the traffic engineering of the interconnected devices to calculate and simulate that the information flow could be supported by a network topology, for the device and system tests, and for bug fixing and service.

The various tools and the experts using these tools are being said to slash expenses of building substation automation systems. First experiences show that this is true. One essential question is still to be answered. Who will benefit most from the reduction of costs: utilities, system integrators, or vendors? There is a simple answer: the system integrator with a comprehensive set of tools and skilled experts (peopleware) will really benefit from the application of the standard. The role of system integration can be played by the utility, third party system integrator or by the system and device vendor. Whoever wants to reduce his costs has to focus on the system integration. Utilities that do not care about the system integration may end up in a quite serious dependency on the third party or vendor playing that role.

The application of tools and the relation between utilities, system integrators and vendors seems to be the pivotal point. This paper discusses the role of the system integrator for IEC 61850 based systems. It shows how well educated system integrators may use the tools and their skills to really benefit from IEC 61850. The potential dependency on comprehensive and comfortable tools – in the hand of a few experts – will be presented. Based on experiences with some ten utilities in writing procurement specifications based on IEC 61850, the paper shows that utilities have to pay special attention to tools and peopleware.


The standard IEC 61850 has been prepared for the purpose of the communication between automation equipment in an electrical substation. It uses communication technologies based on TCP/IP and Ethernet. In addition to the communication protocols, the standard defines as well the data models of the equipment controlled by the automation system and the automation functions themselves.

While the use of IEC 61850 in real projects is growing rapidly, the standardisation bodies are already working on extending the use of the standard for new application domains of the power system. Such extensions consist mainly in creating new data models for the equipment and functions of the new domain. Examples of these new domains are:

  • Power quality metering
  • Control of wind power generation
  • Control of distributed energy resources
  • Control of hydro power plants

In addition, work is ongoing, to use the standard for the communication link between the control centres and the substations as well as between substations. For these applications, the local area network used within the substation has to be replaced by a wide area network.

With these extensions, IEC 61850 may become the basis for a global communication infrastructure for operation and management of the power system. The paper will first present elements of such a global communication infrastructure. It will then explain the basic concepts of IEC 61850. A focus will be put on the elements of the data model.

The main part of the paper will discuss the different extensions for IEC 61850 that are currently under preparation in the standardisation committees. It will explain the model extensions for the new application domains. It will as well discuss aspects of the communication requirements for real time communication over wide area networks.

At the end, some use cases of the global communication infrastructure will be shown and it will be explained, where we are today and what further steps are required.


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