Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Customers talk Much to Vendors - Less to Standardization Groups

The IEEE PES Power & Energy Magazine stated recently "in my view" that "At a recent stakeholder workshop on smart grid interoperability standards sponsored by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NISIST), the electric utility industry accounted for less than 15% of the total attendance. If the industry continues to be severely underrepresented as the process moves to the various standards development organizations, the utility industry will have little say over the final standards as they are developed without its significant input. ... For all of these reasons, it is critical that electric utility knowledge and vision
are a part of the standard setting process."

On the other hand Dr. Lemmer (Siemens Power Automation) stated at the CIGRE in Paris event end of August 2010 with regard to innovation that "our customers tell us where we are going" (see video at 05:35 minutes).

I hope that more utility domain experts will get involved - one was or the other - in the future standardization work. Especially in IEC TC 58 and related groups. As well as in the various "users groups" - that are in fact "vendors groups". Dear Utility Domain expert, you are welcome to join one or the other group ... which also brings you around to see many airports ... and meet a lot of Smart People!

Click HERE for the full text of the "time to speak up! get involved in developing smart grid standards".

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear people:

It is clearly true that electrical utilities are underrepresented in the standard definition committees. This is a statu quo that many professionals, who have entered the substation automation world in the last decade or so, have found as a given fact, with little chance to influence the development of the standards at a moment when the committees, and the relatively limited number of experts who do most of the real work, were already long-established and functioning steadily. Perhaps that is why, sometimes, utilities try ‘shortcuts’ such as talking directly to vendors or creating user groups. I think this is specially true regarding IEC 61850.

In fact there is a widespread belief in the utilities’ domain that IEC 61850, along with its expected yields, is failing to take off. How long have we been hearing about IEC 61850? And yet many SA managers will tell you that, although IEC 61850 is definitely likeable, they cannot go decidedly into the standard because, at the present moment, it does not offer a measurable increase in productivity. What is paradoxical is that a huge productivity boost is lying asleep at the heart of the very concept of IEC 61850, in the form of standardised configuration. It was not any ‘user group’ that decided to integrate the configuration (FC=CF, SP) data, not just the process data, within the IEC 61850 data model! It was not any ‘user group’ that decided to create SCL as a way to fix and standardise the configuration information that an IED needs! That is why to read, in IEC 61850-6, clause 5, that ‘each manufacturer is completely free to find the best way in supporting engineers by a specific software tool’ is a real damper, an absolute wet blanket. To put it blankly, it seems as if IEC 61850 were ‘afraid of itself’.

People from the manufacturer side, although they offer an incredible amount of expertise and a deep knowledge of the technical intricacies, cannot always see the problems that the users face when administering a multi-vendor installation. Learning how to use 10 or 12 different vendor-specific tools is an effort that gives absolutely no value to the user. On top of that, with the advent of IEC 61850, many manufacturers have decided to just wrap the IED in an IEC 61850 ‘shell’, so that the configuration process entails the traditional tasks on the specific tool plus the new IEC 61850 tasks which are carried out by a completely different procedure, to the extent of even disregarding the CID file and/or requiring another software tool or a new module that is, in fact, another tool since it has not been integrated in a global, seamless design. In short, the configuration tools and tasks, far from getting fewer and simpler, have doubled. Instead of moving forward, we seem to be moving backward. As a consequence, when stepping into a multi-vendor IEC 61850 system you are risking a noticeable waste of resources and therefore, as said above, a notorious challenge to productivity.

On the contrary, standardised configuration shall allow the user to:

1) Dispose of the specific vendor tools and related training of maintenance personnel (people not always remarkably ready to get familiar with a new HMI at 4 in the morning)

2) Implement a seamless top-down approach (therefore simpler, more consistent and less error-prone) for all the stages of SA lifecycle: from the SCD to the CIDs, and CIDs directly into the IEDs

It is thus the opinion of a growing number of people in the utility side that the general acceptance of the advantages of standardised configuration by the whole IEC 61850 community is only a question of time. It is just too good an idea to forgo (moreover, one that is absolutely in tune with the principles and spirit of the standard). It is too good an opportunity to miss.

Julio Dominguez
(from the E3 Group)