IEC-61850: Promise and pitfalls

By K Mahoney, Casco Systems, LLC


Published in:

Electricity+Control, July 2015 (pages 4 – 7)

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Download the full article on IEC-61850: Promise and pitfalls in PDF format.


(Seen left: Kevin Machoney, Casco Systems LLC).


Whereas control systems have long been a part of our industry, relying on complex measurement and information systems, only within the past few decades have robust standards been developed to transfer some features into the national grid. This takes automation of the network to a new, smart level. IEC-61850 promises a future of standard data models, automatic device configuration, lower costs and increased functionality. But the question is – does it deliver?



Its common method of communication that allows interoperability between all devices, regardless of manufacturer, opens the potential for new protection, control automation and integration functions.



While the standard and its associated protocols provide for great flexibility to allow it to be adapted to almost any application, the flexibility comes at the cost of complexity and confusion.


Take note

  • Control and automation technologies must be applied to bulk electricity supply networks.
  • Standards exist to ensure that system design and management is optimal.
  • Utilities continue to supply the primary source of energy to our industry and it is critical that they have smart grid functionality.