Ready for the Smart Grid?

The IEC is updating Standards which have wide repercussions on Smart Grids

As the use of Smart Grids escalates around the world, the IEC is busy updating some of its most requested International Standards. Technical Committee (TC) 57: Power systems management and associated information exchange, is working on the IEC 61850 series of Standards.


TC 57/WG 10 meeting in Geneva in February 2017

Energy saving

Smart Grids are increasingly used across the world to save energy and because they are more resilient than traditional grids when power fails. The key technologies behind a Smart Grid are sensors that measure the relevant parameters such as temperatures, voltage and current; communications that allow a two way dialogue with a device; control systems that allow a device to be reconfigured remotely; and user-interface and decision support systems that provide an overview of asset status and perform advanced analytics on data to provide information.

The IEC 61850 series of Standards deals with communication networks and systems for power utility automation. It has many uses, including for Smart Energy and Smart Grids and is therefore continually being updated and perfected. TC 57 is busy working on these various systems.

The Technical Committee oversees the largest working group inside the IEC, WG 10: Power system IED communication and associated data models, which comprises a massive 250 members.

A little history…

TC 57 was set up in 1964 under the title “Line traps”. It initially started up because there was an urgent need to produce International Standards in the field of communications between the equipment and systems for the electric power process, including telecontrol and teleprotection. As system aspects gradually became more important, together with the increasing requirement for Smart Grids, the Technical Committee changed its title and scope, and is now TC 57: Power system management and associated information exchange.

It has always been a very active TC, with 166 valid publications to date, including several International Standards but also Technical Specifications and Technical Reports. It currently has 65 active projects in its work programme.

WG 10 was set up in 1995, under the title WG 10: Communication standards for substations: Functional architecture and general requirements. It evolved over time as other working groups were disbanded and their activities transferred to WG 10 which was given its current title of Power system IED communication and associated data models in 2003.

How to be foolproof

WG 10 has worked – and is still working - on the IEC 61850 series of International Standards, which includes more than 20 different Standards dealing with communication networks and systems for power utility automation.

Part of the challenge is to continue implementing the Smart Grid as an evolution of successive projects spread over several decades. New equipment that has a lower life span than traditional network assets needs to be integrated - three to five years for consumer electronics and telecommunications, compared to more than 40 years for lines, cables, and transformers.

The Smart Grid represents a technical challenge that goes way beyond the simple addition of an IT infrastructure on top of an electrotechnical one. Each device that is connected to a Smart Grid is, at the same time, an electrotechnical device and an intelligent node. Today's "connection" Standards need to address both aspects concurrently. 

Meeting in Geneva

Members of WG 10 met at the behest of the IEC in Geneva. Over five days in February, 80 members from countries as varied as Canada, China, Finland, France, Germany, Italy,  Japan, Korea, Switzerland and the US organized into different Task Forces progressed in writing drafts of Standards, Technical Specifications and Technical reports related to the IEC 61850 series of Standards.

Convened by Christoph Brunner from it4power with the help of IEC Technical Officer Charles Jacquemart, participants were reminded of the history and work accomplished by TC 57.

Specific presentations were given by other IEC staff members including Alisdair Menzies on the drafting of IEC Standards, Guilaine Fournet on the copyright aspects for code components and Alexandre Bobb on IT strategy.

 “The IEC Central Office was keen to organize and host this meeting here in Geneva to show our support for the essential work done by that group,” said Charles Jacquemart.

The event was sponsored by ABB, it4power, Helinks, Electrosuisse and Infoteam.

Members of WG10 will next meet in June in the Republic of Korea.