The Newton-Evans Research Company has released preliminary findings from its mid-year study of North American utility substation officials.

At this point in the study, with tabulations of surveys from 67 North American utilities accounting for nearly one-third of all utility-owned transmission and distribution substations, it appears that more than US$140 million is being spent this year among this group. In turn, this suggests that more than $250 million is being spent by the entire community of more than 3000 electric power utilities this year for substation-related integration and automation programs.

Many of the large utilities participating in this year’s study continue to buy from what they believe to be “best in class” suppliers, whether these are global giants or smaller market specialists. Others are buying individual components, equipment and products and providing their own substation software development and integration rather than outsourcing this effort to construction and engineering firms.

Among other highlights in the North American study are the following:

  • 84% of the respondents have substation automation and integration programs underway in mid-2005. This is a substantially higher rate than was observed in four earlier studies conducted since 1996.
  • DNP remains as the most widely used protocol within the substation, with strong likelihood that users will migrate from a serial to a LAN-based DNP version over the next two years. Modbus was second in popularity, and Modbus Plus came in third.
  • The protocol used from the substation to the control center is very likely to be DNP (either LAN or serial version) which accounted for at least some of the data traffic at 70% of the surveyed utilities.
  • The utilities participating in the survey so far account for more than 21,000 of the 70,000 utility-operated substations in North America. Plans call for retrofitting more than 3000 of these units, and for construction of more than 430 new substations over the 2005-2007 period.
  • Utilities are looking for outside service firms to provide training services (72%), distribution field device configuration support (52%), and engineering drawing support (46%).

A total of 21 question groups were included in the survey instrument, accounting for more than 75 individual topic questions.

Additional topics being covered in the series of substation studies include cyber and physical security practices, voltage ranges used to power substation automation equipment, external systems linkages to the substation, preferred equipment suppliers, and an assessment of where North America’s substations are positioned along a five-phase path to complete automation.

A parallel study is currently underway with the international electric power delivery community of utilities.

Additional information on the four volume study “Worldwide Market for Substation Automation and Integration Programs in Electric Utilities: 2005-2007” is available from Newton-Evans Research Company.