First, the size differential between major utilities in North America and many of the top 100 international utilities is vast, with North American utilities being smaller than many of their international counterparts that serve entire nations or very large regions within a nation. Second, capital and human resource availability are provided, or sought after, on a different basis internationally than in North America. Third, there have been no national or transnational telecommunications policy directives developed that carry as much weight as those in Europe and elsewhere. North American utilities also specify and procure equipment, systems, communications and software differently than is the practiced internationally.

With this as background, repeated studies conducted by Newton-Evans Research have found that, for the most part, North American utilities plan to stay with DNP3 as the protocol of choice for communications between control centers and substations, and down into the distribution network. Nonetheless, 20 of the 25 largest utilities have plans to implement at least a few modules of 61850 from 2013 to 2015.

If an analogy is made that DNP3 is a lovely rose, then it also could be said that IEC 61850 is a floral bouquet, offering an array of communications-centered data-handling services for the increasingly complex substation environment. The only problem with this analogy is most utilities today cannot arrange flowers very well, but those with transmission assets can certainly choose one or more of the components of 61850, such as GOOSE messaging, process bus and even substation configuration language, to their benefit.

Finally, the two charts above compare recent findings among North American and international utilities regarding IEC 61850 use. In the top figure, note the difference in the use of 61850 component modules, indicating limited North American use of available 61850 modules compared to those used internationally. GOOSE messaging capability is, by far, the most popular 61850 component used by North American utilities. In the lower figure, note the stark differences in the extent of 61850 usage patterns in substations as of mid-2012.


2011-2012 2013-2015
Still in embryonic status, moving to emerging status In the developing market phase
Large utilities investigating, experimenting with at least some modules; many using GOOSE, process bus Field deployments underway, with perhaps 350 to 500 substations operating with 61850; the majority will be new construction, with most of these being EHV high-voltage substations
A few (<100) 61850 substation automation rollouts underway; the majority of new substations being planned for 2011-2013 will include at least some 61850 components/modules Mapping of DNP3 into IEC 61850 will enable mid-sized utilities to realize some benefits for distribution automation communications coming into the substation; GOOSE messaging will be widely used among early adapters
20-plus major utilities now belong to the UCA2 user group (could be viewed as the North American 61850 fan club) Use of third-party services from SISCO, Kinectrics, Triangle MicroWorks, Tamarack Consulting, UTInnovation and other specialist consultants expands to additional field engineering, installation and equipment/ communications testing services
Use of third-party services for education, initial round of consulting, training and support DNP 3 will continue to dominate the growing DA communications installations and will continue to be implemented in medium-voltage substations; DNP3 continues to evolve with active user group



Kinectrics |

Newton-Evans |


Tamarack |

Triangle MicroWorks |

UTInnovation |