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The Smart Grid and IEC Standards

Dec. 19, 2017
IEC 61850 is responsible for the growing utilization of digital substations and digital applications in conventional substations

Most of us are not involved with electrical design on a daily basis and many folks in the power industry may be unaware of the work by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). This organization develops and publishes International Standards for electrical and electronic technologies ranging from generation, transmission and distribution to office equipment and home appliances.  The IEC standard 61850 issued about 13 years ago initiated the standardized configuration of Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs) for electrical substation systems allowing communications and interoperability between equipment from different manufacturers and of different vintages.

IEC 61850 is responsible for the growing utilization of digital substations and digital applications in conventional substations we are seeing in the industry, but as described in the next paragraph it has not stopped with substation systems. The standard specifies comprehensive, vendor-agnostic models for functions /data development and independent, well proven communication protocols.  These standardized independently mapped systems protect applications and engineering even when technology functions or communications are updated, making IEC 61850 compliant systems “future-proof.”

Leaders in the power industry like ABB have developed suites of tools to facilitate the IEC 61850 compliant design, testing and maintenance of digital substation systems (see Digital Substation Tools Available Online for Downloading). However, the same abstract modeling principals and standardized communication protocols used for the design of interoperable substation intelligent electronic devices (IEDs) have ever increasing applications for the building of today’s smart grid. While the Power Utility Automation Standard IEC 61850 may have laid the groundwork for where we are going with our electrical grid today, IEC claims that now over 100 IEC Standards are relevant to the smart grid.  You can see that list here: http://www.iec.ch/smartgrid/standards/; and you can find a link to IEC’s Smart Grid Standards Map that the organization claims will allow one to easily and instantly identify the standards that are needed for any part of the smart grid. 

Another company that offers a platform of tools for digital substation design is Schneider Electric. The company believes that its substation solutions, which combine interoperability, cybersecurity and connectivity, can leverage the IoT from the field to the enterprise level.  Take a minute to go to Schneider Electric’s web site to get their white paper that discusses benefits of IEC 61850, its application to the smart grid and how data analytics and engineering tools will benefit substation and smart grid systems in the future.

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