The Newton-Evans Research Co. identified a number of interesting findings from four of its recently completed studies on the electric power telecommunications usage patterns and trends:

  • “The World Market Study of SCADA, EMS, DMS and OMS in Electric Utilities: 2013-2015”

  • “Global Study of Data Communications Usage Patterns and Plans in the Electric Power Industry: 2011-2015”

  • “Worldwide Study of the Protective Relay Marketplace in Electric Utilities: 2012-2014”

  • “The World Market for Substation Automation and Integration Programs in Electric Utilities: 2011-2013.”

Following is a synopsis of the findings from those studies published during mid-2011 through February 2013.

Communication Methods

In January 2013, Newton-Evans released new information gleaned from more than 110 North American electric power utilities in its study of emergency management systems (EMS), supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems, distribution management systems (DMS) and outage management systems (OMS). Based on the study, when it comes to wide-area communications methods used to connect EMS, SCADA and DMS systems to substations, 78% of responding utilities said they either currently use or plan to use at least some fiber to connect SCADA to substations.

The more critical the substation, the more likely fiber will be used, with redundancy provided by either another wire-line approach or some form of wireless technology. This usage pattern is followed by licensed radio (51% currently use this method and 5% more plan to use it by yearend 2015), unlicensed radio (38% currently use this method and 3% more plan to use it by 2015) and leased analog lines (41% currently use this method).

Utility cooperatives tend to use less fiber and more radio; only 48% of coops reported the use of some fiber to connect SCADA to substations. Given the lower customer density per line mile and per substation of coops than either investor-owned utilities or public power utilities, this makes sense. Investor-owned utilities use more of every available communications technology across the board.

In February 2013, Newton-Evans released its findings of international utility telecommunications usage patterns used in conjunction with EMS, SCADA and DMS. Of the international utilities responding to the survey, 91% said they currently use fiber to connect EMS, SCADA and DMS to substations. All 11 European utilities that responded to the survey use fiber, and 17 out of 18 utilities that responded from the Asia-Pacific region use some fiber as well.

In Latin America and the Middle East/Africa regions, microwave communications are used more often than in other parts of the world; 8 out of 12 utilities from Latin America and all four responding Middle East/Africa utilities reported use of microwave communications to connect SCADA with substations. Many of the utilities in these latter regions must span large distances between generation sites and distribution load centers. These findings are very similar to the observations reported in several other recently completed Newton-Evans studies.