Centralized Protection & Control on the Grid: Exclusive Interview with Colin Scoble, Senior Protection Engineer at UK Power Networks - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Interview]

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Matt Chester 185548
Energy Analyst Chester Energy and Policy

Official Energy Central Community Manager of Generation and Energy Management Networks. Matt is an energy analyst in Orlando FL (by way of Washington DC) working as an independent energy...

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  • Oct 10, 2019

The grid has undeniably changed in recent years and will certainly continue down that pathway in the future, an exciting time in a utility industry that’s been reliant on legacy technology for so long. With the evolving needs and capabilities of the modern grid, leaders must take a step back and assess what new challenges and hurdles this evolution will likely bring so they can get a head start on tackling them.

One such solution that will become increasingly necessary to utilities in modern times is to ensure centralized protection and control on the grid. At next week’s IEC 61850 Global 2019 Conference, Colin Scoble will be addressing this very issue. Colin is a Senior Protection Engineer with UK Power Networks, and he’s going to be sharing with those in attendance his insights in a presentation entitled “Centralised Protection & Control: Consolidating protection and control functions into fewer devices to simplify maintenance and reduce substation footprint.”

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For those of you on the fence about attending this valuable talk or the exciting conference generally, read the following interview I conducted with Colin to tease out some of the value you’ll be missing out on if you’re not there:

Matt Chester: Before talking about the topic you’ll be covering at the IEC 61850 conference, let’s discuss your background. What’s your current role, how did you find your way into that pathway, and what brought you to the world of IEC 61850 in the first place?

Colin Scoble: My current role is the Senior Protection Engineer in the Technical Sourcing and Standards Department at UK Power Networks. I previously spent approximately 15 years as a Commissioning Engineer testing protection and control systems on transmission and distribution networks across the UK and overseas. During my time at UK Power Networks, I have held a number of roles in the Major Project Delivery Unit, Network Operations, and finally Asset Management, which is my current role.

IEC 61850 has been an architecture I have seen develop over my career and I am keen to see it implemented in our business in its entirety to maximize the benefits we can achieve from the technology.


MC: The crux of your presentation next week is on the importance of a centralized protection and control system architecture on the power grid. Why is this area such an important one in your opinion, and do you find that the industry is lagging more than it should in this regard?

CS: From my experience, the process bus and station bus have been crying out for a centralized device to collect all the process data and provide one central location for decision-making and reporting. This area is important for me to ensure we can maximize the engineering efficiency as much as possible by standardizing our designs at the bay level, support rapid deployment of patch management and provide system-based testing and maintenance strategies. I do believe the uptake of centralized systems has been slow, and of course this will drive the vendors in their development focus; however, I do see that changing now and more companies are seeing the benefits they can achieve with these systems so I am confident this will change now and we will see more centralized systems being installed.        


MC: What types of considerations are essential for this centralized protection and control; are the solutions technical or are they strategic/operational?

CS: There are many considerations with a centralized protection and control system, However, if I was to pick one very important consideration it would be your redundancy strategy. This is a very important question to ask early on in the design phase. You can design the system with a single centralized device, dual centralized devices, dual centralized devices, and redundancy in the IEDs; there are many options, however, you need to consider the complexity of your system with additional redundancy. We are focused on engineering efficiency, but at all times we must retain a reliable power system so getting this balance correct is very important with these systems.  

MC: Where do you see the most progress being made in this area, whether any specific standout companies or utilities, regions of the world, or otherwise? Who is leading the charge that is necessary for these solutions?

CS: I am aware of some centralized projects in Russia, Finland, Turkey, and, of course, now the UK. But I am sure there are many more countries looking at this technology around the globe, we are certainly not the first. The centralized journey for us is early as it will be with many other utilities, and it is important that we support our suppliers and each other in developing these systems for the benefit of the industry. This is a key reason I am presenting at IEC61850 global: to share our experience and receive feedback from other experiences in the industry.      


MC: Aside from your presentation, what other topics do you hope to learn a lot about while at the conference? Are there any presentations from your peers that you have circled on your agenda?

CS: There are many presentations during the conference that I am looking forward to gaining some insight from. However, my challenges and focus are currently on interoperability and cybersecurity at the moment, so will be particularly focused on these themes


If you’re interested in hearing more about Colin’s insights into centralized protection and control, be sure to check out his presentation at the IEC 61850 Global 2019 conference, taking place from October 14 to 18 in London. You can check out the agenda and register for the conference here.


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