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WG B5.50 – IEC 61850 based Substation Automation Systems

Virtually every utility and electro intensive consumer in Australia has the intention to move to IEC 61850 for their Substation Automation Systems. IEC 61850 is the global standard for communication networks and systems for power utility automation. It standardises and contextualises data, providing a critical link to expert systems of the future. The benefits of reduced costs and increased performance are clear but like any change the transition can be difficult. As a consequence, global achievements against the long-term goals are quite varied, with some concerned that the standard is not ready.  WG B5.50 has recently published TB 819 “IEC 61850 based substation automation systems – Users’ expectations and stakeholders’ interactions”.  The Australian member on the WG was Ian Young who produced this article.

Most users have undertaken some form of review of IEC 61850 from paper study to full pilot substations to determine the appropriate course for their organisation. The outcome of these has been varied with some users finding the standard is not ready, others finding they are not ready whilst others have adopted the standard. Even for those who have moved to IEC 61850 there is a huge variation of implementation from communication only through to full process bus with IEC 61850 based engineering. TB 819 addresses many concerns users have, particularly with regards to those who feel the standard is not ready. It highlights many concerns and details either what has been done to address these concerns or the work currently in progress. One example is the work done by ENSTO-E (European Network of Transmission System Operators) to address interoperability requirements in utility substations. This work is very relevant to the Australian environment where multi-vender installations are the norm. This work also highlighted the need for a template-based approach with IEC 61850 which is illustrated in the following diagram, where IST is the Interoperability Specification Tool and SST is the System Specification Tool.  The diagram illustrates the targeted engineering process which aims to show standard interconnections and signal flows that can be vendor independent.

This is of particular interest to Australian utilities who commonly use frame agreements for their Substation Automation Systems as it allows individual components to be changed. This ensures future tenders are open and they can adopt whichever device best meets their needs.

The brochure also looks at other areas of concern such as documentation, testing, cybersecurity, operation, and maintenance. For most of these topics, an overview is provided, with the dedicated technical brochure such as TB 760 “Test strategy for Protection, Automation and Control (PAC) functions in a fully digital substation based on IEC 61850 applications” referenced for users who wish to explore specific topics in more detail. Six dedicated brochures are referenced on the topic of cyber security.

Process bus is often referred to as a full IEC61850 installation providing the biggest benefits for users, particularly transmission utilities. To date, however, few users worldwide have progressed past the pilot program stage. A specific section dedicated to this topic which includes user experiences from Transgrid who have adopted process bus as their standard. It also includes feedback from Endeavour Energy with regards to time synchronisation of merging units which is critical in this environment.

For those users who feel they are not ready for the change to IEC 61850 the stakeholders’ requirements section provides guidance for what needs to be in place for a successful transition. It considers various purchasing models as well as operational considerations.

Since most Australian utilities fall into Option A, they do need to increase their knowledge before moving to IEC 61850 to ensure a smooth transition. This is acknowledged and the brochure looks at some of the specific requirements, including what will be required from users in various roles within a utility. Here CIGRE plays an important role by sharing users’ knowledge and experiences. This includes many technical brochures and conference preferential subjects dedicated to various aspects of IEC 61850.

The brochure is beneficial for anyone looking at their future substation automation systems, even for users who have already adopted IEC 61850. It includes discussions on recent and ongoing developments as well as existing user solutions.

The publication is free to members and €150 for non-members.