T&D World Magazine

Substation Communications Fuels Drive Toward Next-Generation Electric System

Substation automation programs arm critical infrastructure (CI) with the ability to control distribution and transmission of electricity, gas and water systems and to maximize efficiencies. The trend toward automation is an essential element of next-generation, intelligent infrastructures that will revolutionize the way utilities deal with their assets, their workforces and their customers. For the electric power industry, the United Telecom Council, in conjunction with KEMA, Inc. has announced a new study report, “Substation Communications, Enabler of Automation,” that discusses the future of substation communications technologies and deployment as major factors of automation, and their impact on the entire industry.

Some of the major findings from the study include:

  • Utilities are working to upgrade their substations and communications but are constrained by available resources and budgets.
  • Primary drivers for communication upgrades are regulatory compliance – such as the NERC cyber security standards – and the need for “big pipe” applications such as video surveillance.
  • Many utilities have no formal or system-wide substation automation plans. Instead, they have implemented substation integration on a case-by-case basis.
  • Most utilities have found that private communications facilities, rather than leased, are better from the standpoint of cost and reliability; however, each utility should do its own cost benefit analysis.
  • Most CI entities combine substation automation with other communications and power delivery upgrades and construction scheduled for their facilities.

Overall, findings included in this report illustrate that substation automation is a long-term project, but a necessary step to enable the 21st-century “smart grid.” Short-term goals, such as implementing video surveillance and NERC compliance, may do as much or more to justify substation facility upgrades as the goal of developing high-speed communications to support automation.

Through the generous sponsorship of Teltone Corporation, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Black & Veatch, ABB Group, Digi International, GarrettCom, Microwave Data Systems and RuggedCom, this report is available at no cost to UTC core members and at low cost to associate members and non-members.

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