North American distribution automation market slow to adopt IEC 61850


Donald Henschel,
Senior Analyst,
IMS Research
Austin, TX, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — December 14, 2012 – Distribution automation electronics in the U.S. and Canada will continue to rely on DNP 3.0 LAN for years to come, even as IEC 61850 adoption becomes more mainstream in the transmission grid in North America and in all aspects of the grid in Latin America, according to a new study on smart grid networking from IMS Research.
Security concerns and federal governmental oversight have motivated rapid adoption of next generation communications technologies in transmission assets in the U.S. Likewise, in global markets outside North America, IEC61850 adoption has spread to medium voltage assets operated by large, often nationalized utility organizations.

However, in stark contrast, in North America medium voltage assets, from the distribution substations through the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), are under the authority of a range of state and regional authorities, in which standardization has been slower to develop. Much of the automation equipment currently installed in the medium voltage networks there has been in the field for only a few years, or has not been integrated into broad protection and control schemes supporting new applications.
“The projections for all of the Americas indicate increasing rapid adoption of IEC61850 for distribution level automation in the coming years, but a fair part of that shift will be driven by Latin America’s new equipment installations, as opposed to retrofit of existing North American distribution networks,” commented IMS Research senior analyst Donald Henschel. “These new standards are coming, but supplier and utility experience indicates that DNP3 LAN has substantial ongoing opportunity for the next several years.”
U.S. utility organizations were deeply affected by the passage and payout of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and many hurried to make substantial changes in their medium voltage and metering systems during that period. As ARRA funding is winding down, some utility organizations are cautious about moving to any new technologies or standards for the short term.At issue according to the study, is the demonstrable business value of some of these next generation networks and protocols.