IEC 61850 adoption slow in North American distribution automation market

IMS Research forecasts newly-installed 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.

Security concerns and federal governmental oversight have motivated rapid adoption of next-generation communications technologies in transmission assets in the U.S. NERC-CIP compliance, has been an especially strong driver for rapid action by transmission organizations and their vendors.

Likewise, in global markets outside North America, IEC61850 adoption has spread to medium voltage assets operated by large, often nationalized utility organizations. These organizations have made firm decisions to rationalize their equipment stock towards these new communications standards and have the capital and manpower to accomplish decisive change.

By stark contrast, 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 North America. Understandably, standardization has been slower to develop under these circumstances.

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.

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, accustomed to long equipment lifecycles, are understandably cautious about moving to any new technologies or standards for the short term.

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