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IEC 61850

Do users really get what they expect?
Do they get interoperable IEDs and tools?
What about multi-vendor projects?

Utilites will get what they order! find more discussion in a slide set [720 KB pdf]

Email us your experiences with regard to interoperability and multi-vendor support ... Thanks.

The first edition of the standard series IEC 61850 has been published some three years ago. What is the current situation on the market? Do the devices and tools offered today really provide what the standard is all about? what does the user community expects?

First of all: Vendors are selling much more devices (protection and control IEDs) with IEC 61850 connectivity than expected!! "IEC 61850 inside" seems to be the buzzword in the substation automation domain.

Second: Is the new functionality provided by IEC 61850 the main reason for the great success of selling devices with "IEC 61850 inside"? In many cases it seems to be the contrary: The message often associated with "IEC 61850 inside" is just: There is no change in the way how substation automation works. IEC 61850 could be used as any other "protocol" to define point lists and communicate points!

The message seems to be: Dear customer there is almost no change when you migrate from your current solution to IEC 61850. There are just a few add-ons ... we (the vendor) take care of everything so that in the end there is no need for utilities to know any detail about IEC 61850.

One could say that the rich and powerful possibilities provided by IEC 61850 are quite often NOT implemented or - if implemented - NOT used by the engineering/system integration experts, and NOT made available to the customers! Here is one example: The standard is flexible to organize the information in logical devices (LD) as required by the philosophy of the user (system integrator). BUT vendor tools often do not allow you to build a new logical device at all. The tools may often provide a set of fixed logical devices ... that's it.

In addition: Often the current point lits are just mapped to a generic logical node (LN GGIO). That way many nice information models of IEC 61850 are "flattended" to a simple list of points. Current lists are indexed (001, 002, 003, ...) - with IEC 61850 this list may be (GGIO1.AnIn001, GGIO1.AnIn002, GGIO1.AnIn003, ...).

The situation often looks as depicted in the following sketch:

The utility industry is recommended to understand the features of the standard and how they are restricted by vendors' tools and IEDs ... to prevent frustration and confusion.

Part of the situation has been discussed recently at the DistribuTech 2007 in San Diego (see links below).

The other day (in September 2007) a big utility gave a presentation on the use of IEC 61850 in several substations. The crucial recommendations from the utility side are:

Knowledge about IEC 61850

Experts from vendors and utilities need more education and training if they want really benefit from the new technology!

Interoperability Vendors and users have to run many more interoperability tests to increase the interoperation and the confidence in the new technology
Multi-vendor systems The application of multi-vendor systems is growing ... there are more good examples to be demonstrated by all stakeholders

Vattenfall (the biggest Scandinavian utility) recommends to utilities and vendors (and of course the system integrators) to do much more education and training on IEC 61850!!

If you want to learn more about how vendors restrict the flexibility and features of the standard, please contact us. We could really assist you in the analysis and assessment of the offers of vendors.

Some vendors are pushing the market towards "IEC 61850 inside" quite hard ... to sell what they have today ... IEDs with a little "IEC 61850 inside".

Utilities looking for cost reduction for future IEDs, tools and substation automation systems should understand the possibilities of IEC 61850 and compare them with the offerings of vendors ...

Some users are already complaining that they did not get what they had expected.

Utilites will get what they order! find more discussion in a slide set [720 KB pdf]

Need help? Contact us please.

Email us your experiences with regard to conformance and interoperability ... Thanks.

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

Our seminars and training cover these issues as well:

many new courses 2008
Power delivery systems:
Seminars and Training


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