Study Finds Similarities in Plans for Full Digital Substations

June 16, 2017
ewton-Evans Research Co. continues to assess findings from its six-month research study and survey of protective relay usage patterns in the world community of

Newton-Evans Research Co. continues to assess findings from its six-month research study and survey of protective relay usage patterns in the world community of electric power utilities. Insights received from 114 large and mid-sized utilities in 28 countries point to some interesting differences in plans for implementation of the “full digital substation” concept and to increased use of condition-based maintenance (CBM) strategies for protective relays.

Implementation of the “Full Digital Substation” Concept: Thirty-four percent of the survey respondents from the U.S. and Canada agreed with the statement, “By year end 2018, we will be well on our way toward implementing the full digital substation concept.” Thirty-seven percent disagreed with the statement. Forty percent of small North American utilities (fewer than 100,000 customers) agreed with the statement, but only 18% of large utilities (more than 500,000 customers) concurred.

Forty-three percent of the international respondents agreed with the same statement, which is slightly more than what was observed in North America (34%). Twenty-five percent had no opinion, and another 25% disagreed. Importantly, the typical international utility respondent was somewhat larger (in terms of customers served) than their North American counterpart.

Increased Use of CBM: Forty-seven percent of North American respondents agreed with the statement “We plan to increase use of condition-based maintenance to reduce maintenance testing time of technicians.” Fifty-six percent of IOUs, 43% of public power utilities, and 39% of utility cooperatives agreed with the statement. Fifty-nine percent of large utilities (>500,000 customers) plan to increase in use of CBM while only 37% of small utilities (<100,000 customers) plan to do this.

Seventy-two percent of international respondents agreed with the statement that they plan to increase use of CBM to reduce maintenance testing time. Only 6% disagreed.

This Newton-Evans survey of electric utilities included more than 20 questions on product functionality and market-related issues. Further information on the research series “The World Market for Protective Relays in Electric Utilities: 2016-2018” is available from Newton-Evans Research Co.

Editor’s note: According to Newton-Evans, a digital substation encompasses near-realtime conversion of data from tier-one devices (primary equipment that has sensor based capabilities to report on operational status - equipment status indicators); a second tier comprised of intelligent electronic devices (relays, monitors, meters, recorders et al) that acquire, process and store/transmit data from tier one equipment, and a third tier of substation-resident computing resources (“outstations” in DNP terms) that provide substation-wide monitoring, alarming and control. Communications between tier one and tier two for IEC 61850 users is process bus, while the station bus is used for communications between tier two IED resources and tier three computing resources. For non-users of the IEC 61850 approach, the communications “buses” would most likely be based on DNP3 (serial and LAN/Ethernet) implementations as used in most North American utilities.

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