Exploring Global IEC 61850 Implementations and Comparing Levels of Penetration Globally: Exclusive Interview with Tuan Vu, Senior Digital Asset Strategies Engineer at Powerlink Queensland - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Interview]

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image credit: Tuan Vu
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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 2, 2019

As the utility systems in place across the world become more digitized, flexible, and decentralized, IEC 61850 is becoming a more important standard to define communication protocols for smart-enabled equipment on electrical substations. The progress to implement this communications protocol, however, is not uniformly reaching all corners of the utility industry with regional and company-based variance persisting and creating weak spots.

This concern about the global penetration of IEC 61850 is going to be a hot topic at SmartGrid’s upcoming IEC 61850 Global 2019 Conference and will be the exact topic discussed on the Global Implementation Panel on exploring global IEC 61850 implementations and comparing levels of penetration globally. One of the esteemed members of that panel is going to be Tuan Vu, a Senior Digital Asset Strategies Engineer at Powerlink Queensland.

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I had the chance to catch up with Tuan about this important topic and what he expected to come out of this panel and the conference overall. Check it out:

Matt Chester: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with Energy Central, Tuan. Can you start by sharing a bit about your background in utilities and how you first get involved with IEC 61850 implementation issues?

Tuan Vu: I have been working with secondary systems for over 20 years.  In my current role, as a Senior Digital Asset Strategies Engineer, I have been tasked to develop Powerlink’s Roadmap for Intelligent Digital Enabled Substation based on IEC 61850 and associated open standards.


MC: Your experience with IEC 61850 standards comes at Powerlink in Queensland, Australia. Are there any unique considerations when it comes to running on this grid compared with elsewhere in the country or the rest of the world?

TV: The Australian Energy Industry is transforming rapidly. As a Transmission Network Service Provider, Powerlink plays a key role in responding to emerging network needs and challenges to benefit customers and consumers. Our customers, from generators to large industrial loads to small businesses and communities and more than 4 million Queenslanders, demand high network reliability and availability at lowest long run cost. Powerlink leverages off advanced technologies such as digital substations based on open standards, such as IEC 61850 and IEC 61869 to achieve our business strategies and innovative for the future and customer focus and influence.


MC: It appears that one of your lessons learned thus far is that despite significant progress that there is still so much work to be done. What are some of the most important hurdles that have yet to be tackled, and do you have other utilities or grid systems that you’re looking towards as a road map?

TV: In my opinion, there appears to be lack of coordinated actions in the energy industry for digitization of electrical substations and other domains such as DERs, FACTS, and ADMS (Advanced Distribution Management System) / AEMS (Advanced Energy Management System).  There are still many challenges to integrate digital technologies across different network domains of the power system. 

For example, in order to digitize current and voltages in the field, we would require IEC 61869 SAMU, LPITs, and associated integrated control and protection systems.  It is very important that this technology is affordable and can be seamlessly deployed across different domains mentioned above. 

Further, system Integration between ADMS or AEMS and other network domains such as digital substations, FACTS, and DER technologies are still very challenging and time consuming.

Lastly, there seems to be lack of practical guidelines for integrating Centralized Wide Area Network Control and Protection Systems, based on open standards, in AEMS or ADMS.


MC: I think it’s really interesting how you’re talking about not just the financial and technological risks, which might be the more obvious ones, but also cultural considerations. Can you talk a bit about cultural considerations when it comes to IEC 61850 implementation?

TV: Firstly, the organization needs to have an appropriate structure to support major technology change.  Secondly, appropriate skills and workforce are required across multi-disciplines to support the technological change.  Finally, paradigm shift is very essential.

For example, my thoughts for digital substation can be summarized in this table:




Systematic and Functional Models

Discrete Hardware, Physical Units

Virtual Environment

Physical Platform, Physical Real Estate

Software and Databases

Hardwired I/Os and Cables

Digital Network and Software

Drawings and Physical Tools

Automated Processes

Manual Processes

Software Security Challenges

Physical Maintenance

MC: Is there any particular technology in this area that has yet to be released that you’re excited about being developed in the coming years? What’s the next stage of this evolution look like?

TV: I look forward to the opportunity to implement pilot digital substation projects with Affordable IEC 61869 SAMU and LPITs, as well as IEC 61850 Automated System Design and Testing Software Systems that support multi-vendor Protection and Control Systems,  PMUs, Power Quality Instruments, SAMUs and LPITs.

If you’re interested in hearing more about Tuan’s insights into IEC 61850, be sure to check out this panel 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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