Sunday, March 31, 2013

Security Standard IEC 62351-3 on its way

The Technical Specification IEC TS 62351-3, First edition, 2007-06 is underway to become an International Standard (57/1319/CDV):

Power systems management and associated information exchange –
Data and communications security –
Part 3: Communication network and system security – Profiles including TCP/IP

The CVD is out for ballot until 2013-07-05.

IEC 62351-3 specifies how to secure TCP/IP-based protocols through constraints on the
specification of the messages, procedures, and algorithms of Transport Layer Security (TLS)
(defined in RFC 5246) so that they are applicable to the telecontrol environment of IEC TC57. It is intended that this standard be referenced as a normative part of other IEC TC57 standards that have the need for providing security for their TCP/IP-based protocol.

The conformance is very strict:

8 Conformance
Conformance to this part shall be determined by the implementation of all parts of clause 5.

The definition of clause 5 could be implemented today already: the content is available in the Technical Specification IEC TS 62351-3.

There is no (and never was an) excuse to not implement quite secure communication.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

IEC 61850/61400-25 for QNX available

Please note that the SystemCorp IEC 61850/61400-25 Stack/API has been ported to QNX 6.5 and PREEMPT_RT Linux. You are invited to visit the SystemCorp booth to discuss further details.


Invitation to Hanover Fair 2013 from 8th to 12th April | E-Energy, Smart Grids

Dear All,
We invite you to visit the booth of SystemCorp (Hall 13, booth C45/1).

SystemCORP offers their IEC 61850 (IEC 61400-25) Stack/API for Substations, Decentraliced Energy Resources , Distribution Automation, Hydro Power Plants, and Wind Turbines, to name few.

The communication stack with integrated APIs has been developed by SystemCorp and most efficiently ported to QNX 6.5 and PREEMPT_RT Linux. Both APIs are also supported by the advanced SoftPLC DACHSview++ with realtime targets under QNX 6.x or PREEMPT_RT Linux..

At the booth you will see an overview about the possibilities, how to apply Embedded Controllers to realize most powerful and cost efficient implementations of standards for Protection Relays, Automation Devices, SCADA, Gateways and Systems.

Best Regards,
Your Team from SystemCorp and STEINHOFF Automation

Mr Karlheinz Schwarz, NettedAutomation will be available at the booth to answer your questions related to the standards.

See you there.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cause of New Orleans Superdome partial Blackout

The Superdome in New Orleans was hit by a partial blackout on February 03, 2013. Some six weeks later you can find a technical report on the causes of the interruption of power flow.

There are multiple reasons reported why the circuit breaker tripped:

  • Misoperation of the protection function under certain conditions
  • Using factory default settings that had not been adjusted for the application at the Superdome
  • Unclear technical documentation and communication between manufacturer and user

It is likely that the responsible technicians had a lack in experience and education or that they had to do the commissioning and testing in some haste. You know: Haste produces waste! Who knows.

Lessons learned: The electrical system requires highly experienced and educated protection engineers!! The application of more and more information and communication technology will require even more educated and experienced engineers!!

Click HERE to download the report [pdf, 560 KB].

There was another crucial “misbehavior” of technical people that caused a very crucial outage. Relay settings are very crucial … care must be taken to prevent outages … or you will see huge outages like the one in Europe Nov 04, 2006 which was caused by inconsistent alarm and trip settings (from UCTE Report, link see below):


The limits on both ends of a line must be the same (!!) … at least both sides need to take the values of the other side into account.

But what happens if you don’t take them into account? a big outages maybe the result (usually) as on Nov 04.

IEC 61850 would have help to prevent this situation: if each side gets read access to the alarm and trip settings … let’s say once a week, then you will figure out an inconsistent situation … or send an spontaneous report in case any setting value changes …

Click HERE for the Final Report of the Nov 04, 2016 outage [pdf, 2.8 MB] 

Information and communication technology can help to do routine tests and checks and help to get consistent settings. But it will not replace the well trained and experienced engineers.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

IEC 61850 for Fault Protection, Isolation and Restoration (FPIR) equipment

Brisbane, Qld, Australia – Electrical switchgear engineers NOJA Power today announces its support for the adoption of IEC 61850 for Fault Protection, Isolation and Restoration (FPIR) equipment. NOJA Power says the use of IEC 61850 would significantly enhance coordination between Automatic Circuit Reclosers (ACR)––pole- or ground-mounted electricity distribution network protection devices––allowing such equipment to form an essential element of smart grids.

“ACRs will form a critical part of smart grids and IEC 61850 is rapidly gaining unstoppable momentum as the preferred communication and control standard for the smart infrastructure of the future,” said Neil O’Sullivan, CEO, NOJA Power.

Click HERE for the press release on IEC 61850 for DA application.

Tissue Database opened for IEC 68150-80-1, 90-1 and 90-5

Please note that we opened the IEC 61850 Tissue Database for three additional parts: 80-1, 90-1 and 90-5:


Click HERE for the IEC 61850 Tissue Database.

Smart Grids at Hannover Messe 2013

An exclusive area “Smart Grids” is dedicated to themed presentations and products spanning all aspects of smart grid technology.

HANNOVER MESSE is more than just an international meeting place for smart grids stakeholders. Thanks to its interdisciplinary and fully integrated format, the event exposes exhibitors and trade visitors to all the key technologies needed for today’s and tomorrow’s intelligent energy supply systems.

Exhibitors at the themed presentations in Hall 13, Stand C45 are:

Advantech Europe B. V.
Beck IPC (C45/1*)
E-Energy Begleitforschung
Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI)
Landis + Gyr GmbH
mdex GmbH
Nexans Deutschland GmbH
Operation Technology Inc. (ETAP)
PcVue GmbH
Robotron Datenbank-Software GmbH
SSV Software Systems GmbH
SystemCORP (C45/1*)
TQ-Systems GmbH (C45/1*)

Some 40 presentations and discussions are planned for the five days.

Download complete program and list of exhibitors [EN/DE, pdf, 1.5 MB]

* These three companies show their excellence in smart communication systems according to IEC 60870-5-104/DNP3, IEC 61850 and IEC 61400-25: Hardware, Software, Applications, … Gateways.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

When to use Operate Service and when SetDataValues?

The IEC 61850-7-2 abstract services Operate and SetDataValues are both mapped to MMS Write in IEC 61850-8-1. So, what makes a MMS Write service an Operate or a SetDataValues?

The two services and the mapping are sketched here:


The first mapping is showing the Operate service (as part of the control model):


The Operate service is used in conjunction with the control model (defining state machines, select-before-operate, time-activated control,…). Control service models require a special information model: controllable Common Data Classes, e.g., SPC – Controllable Single Point. The model comprises attributes defined by the CDC and the service parameter ctlVal: these are shown in the MMS Variable as a structure “Oper” with the components: ctlVal, origin, ctlNum, T, Test, Check. These have to written at MMS level. These are always required for Operate even if you need just ctlVal !!

The settable DataObjects require the MMS Write as shown in the following figure:


In IEC 61850-7-3 it is defined exactly which services are to be used for the various attributes in the Common Data Classes. Example for controllable DataObjects:

Note that the FC=CO is defined in 8-1 !

Note also that client user interfaces (like the IEDScout) may use different service names than 7-2 or MMS.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Security and IEC 61850: Is it about Bug Fixes or Systematic Issues?

These days experts discuss the future of more secure IEDs and systems in the world of Industrial Control Systems (ICS). Note: ICS is also used in power systems – no question.

There are people that focus on single bugs and how to solve them by patching et cetera. Other experts are more looking at the systematic security problems in control systems.

Eric Byres, CTO and vice president of Tofino Security, a division of Belden, says “It will take major players like Exxon, Duke Energy, for instance, and other corporations with the ICS purchasing power, he says, to force vendors to step up and fix the systemic security issues."

Read a comprehensive discussion about the two positions – quite crucial and interesting.

What do you think about translating this statement into the issues we have with IEC 61850 Interoperability?

It will take major players like AEP, SCE, E.ON, EDF, RWE, Duke Energy, for instance, and other corporations with the ICS purchasing power, to force vendors to step up and fix the systemic interoperability issues with regard to IEC 61850."

This would help to prevent a lot of frustrations during factory and site acceptance tests.

Why do we see just a few major players from the utility domain using their force to improve interoperability? There are several reasons I see:

  • Wall Street, Frankfurter Börse, …
  • Ignorance of issues
  • Not enough experts
  • Attitude: just fix what brakes

Recommendation from my side: Vendors and users should cooperate more in Teamwork and agree on writing documents like “How to profile IEC 61850, IEC 60870-5, …” to get specific profile specifications for a specific application that have (hopefully) not left options to ignore or to chose from.

A good example is the Vattenfall VHP Ready specification (Virtual Heat an Power). This spec defines the IOA for signals according to IEC 60870-5-104 and the Logical Device, Logical Node and Data Object Names.

Example 104:


Example IEC 61850:



If utilities do not specify what they want, they may experience a big surprise when they get the system delivered and installed. They may get much less or much more than what they expected.

And note this: When we get more standard conformant and interoperable IEDs installed, they are definitely linked to the Security issues discussed at the beginning!

What we are looking for is: Interoperable and Secure IEDs and Systems. We should not separate these two requirements! They are highly interrelated.

Hanover Fair 2013: TQ, Beck IPC and SystemCORP Join their Strengths

Hanover Fair 2013 8-12 April, hall 13, booth 45/1:

TQ, Beck IPC and SystemCORP will demonstrate (based on the Embedded Modules TQMa35, TQMa28 and SC143) complete solutions with the lowest efforts and shortest time-to-market for IEC 61850, IEC 60870-5, DNP3, ...

Download Invitation in English [pdf, 600KB]
Download Invitation in German [pdf, 600KB]
Map and booth location [pdf, 1.6 MB]

I will be at the same booth for answering questions related to the various standards.

See you there.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Crucial Lessons learned from a MV Substation Project at a Huge Power Plant

Recently I discussed the issue of interoperability of IEDs in the context of a crucial non-interoperability problem of two vendors’ IEDs. Click here for the discussion.

Now, three months later, the utility has decided to replace two protection IEDs in summer 2013 in order to get fully interoperable IEDs for the power plant control system.

The whole process of discussing back and forth over a period of nine (9!) months has frustrated many engineers and other people involved in the project. We had meetings with almost 20 people from several companies involved – could you believe it?

The utility (power plant operator) finally ordered a one day training on IEC 61850 to get a much better understanding what the (relatively small) issue was all about and to get an overview about IEC 61850.

The crucial lessons learned by the utility engineers are:

  1. If you want to use IEC 61850 in your plant, specify to some extent what you want to get delivered.
  2. When you get the offer from vendors, check in detail what they offer.
  3. Once you have almost selected one or more vendors, make sure that all IEDs that have to speak IEC 61850 are interoperability tested one way or the other.
  4. Once you have signed the contract with one or more vendors, organize interoperability tests in a lab in due time prior to the commissioning process on site.

Note that conformance testing is required – but not sufficient!!

Utilities must take a firm position in favor of a genuine open international standard in the energy market, leaving behind once and for all the outmoded notion of great champions of vendors with many proprietary bells and whistles.

In case utility management and engineers involved in a project follow these recommendations it is likely that the problems that may occur on site later on will be tremendously minimized.

The utility I was involved with told me, that they will contract with me again, as soon as they have to build another MV substation in a power plant using IEC 61850 IEDs.

Good luck!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Tissue Database for IEC 62351 just opened

The Tissue Database for IEC 62351:

Power systems management and associated information exchange – Data and communications security

has been opened for immediate access. Nine parts have been published so far. You may post your feedback (bug reports, …) now.


Access the Tissue Database for IEC 62351.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

More than 100 Job offerings for IEC 61850 in the USA at SimplyHired

Are you educated in IEC 61850 implementations and applications? Looking for a new job? There are many opportunities: 100+ in the USA alone:


Check for the list of IEC 61850 Job offerings.

Do you want to improve your experience and knowledge? NettedAutomation is offering the right IEC 61850 training courses:

Training information, program example, list of references [pdf, 3.0 MB]

Friday, March 8, 2013

IEC 61850 Interoperability Test Session Fall 2013

Interoperability of IEC 61850 IEDs and Tools is one of the crucial challenges the years to come. Good to know that the UCAIUG (Users Group) is planning a conduct the next Interoperability test session during Fall 2013 – likely in the second half of October in Munich (Germany).

I highly recommend vendors of IEDs and Tools to apply for attendance – AND: If your company is not yet a member of the UCAIUG, this is a good reason to apply for membership.

Please contact the UCAIUG if you want to get involved in the IEC 61850 Interoperability testing session in October 2013.

Apply for UCAIUG membership – its so easy.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Is IEC/TR 61850-90-7 part of Edition 1, 2, or 3?

The document IEC/TR 61850-90-7:2013-02

Communication networks and systems for power utility automation
Part 90-7: Object models for power converters in distributed energy resources (DER) systems

has been published the other day.

Is this document part of IEC 61850 Edition 1, 2 or 3? NEITHER NOR!

It has its own history which starts with IEC/TR 61850-90-7 - Edition 1 - 2013-02 as you can see on the document:


When we talk about editions – be very careful and precise.

Implementing a model (Logical Node, data object, …) from IEC/TR 61850-90-7 - Edition 1 may require IEC 61850-7-3 Edition 2 or not … it depends on the model itself.