IEC 61850 Implementations on NamPower Transmission Grid: Exclusive Interview with Frans Shanyata of NamPower - [an Energy Central Power Perspectives™ Interview]

Posted to Energy Central in the Digital Utility Group
image credit: Frans Shanyata
Matt Chester's picture
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 11, 2019

The standardization and practices with regard to IEC 61850 are global in their reach, and as utilities continue to integration IEC 61850 solutions the lessons learned can also come from all corners of the world. As a great example, Frans Shanyata of NamPower in Namibia is travelling to London next week to share the insights he’s gained in his work with an international audience of utility professionals at the IEC 61850 Global 2019 Conference.

In his presentation, entitled “IEC 61850 Implementations and level of penetration in NamPower transmission grid,” Frans will be sharing his roadmap for how to successfully increase IEC 61850 utilization across the grid, overcome the challenges that tend to arise, and provide first hand insights.

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Whether you’re planning on being at IEC 61850 or not, you can grab something useful from the interview I held with Frans as he provides a look at what his presentation will cover:

Matt Chester: Can you please first provide an overview of your background in utilities and what in your career led you on the path to focusing on IEC 61850?

Frans Shanyata: My first encounter with IEC61850 was in 2013  when I  joined the Namibian power corporation, otherwise known as NamPower, as a protection engineer. In my first project, I was tasked to configure a GOOOSE messaging based busbar blocking scheme and a virtual busbar protection for a small 132/66kV, 25 MVA substation. Since then I have been involved with testing and commissioning IEC61850 complaint PAC schemes.  

 Since March 2019,  I have been leading team protection engineers within NamPower.  As a team leader responsible for the protection of  NamPower transmission grid  my primary functions are in PAC schemes design, protection IEDs configuration and testing, and substation SCD files development.

It is at the design stage where I try by all means to convince my colleagues, especially colleagues from older generation, that IEC 61850 is the present and the future of power grids.


MC: In your presentation, you’re going to cover a few of the different steps (perhaps even missteps) that NamPower took along the way towards their current IEC 61850 substation approach. What was that learning process like? What was the most challenging part to getting to where you are today?

FS: When we started with the implementation of IEC61850, the standard was still in its infancy in terms of implementation and practical experiences. And also people did not have a full trust in the standard, so NamPower’s approach from the beginning was guided by these factors. Because of this, from 2008 to 2014 the pace and the level of implementation was limited.  

Some of the challenges we faced included the fact that you have to work with multiple software and tools to get the work done, which was time consuming. There was also limited information available on practical applications, but after all the learning process was fun and enjoyable.  


MC: Are there any particular challenges that you find you have to face in this regard operating in the Namibian market that differ from the challenges perhaps felt in other regions?

FS: From my experience and discussions that I had with people from different regions, I came to realize that the challenges faced by utilities regarding IEC61850 implementation are more the same, ranging from limited experience to cybersecurity issues. Namibia is a developing country and everything is on the move, so the only way to keep up with the ever-changing and high-demanding industry is to make use of available technology. We are one of the countries in Africa with a high penetration of renewable energy, especially solar PVs. In the last three years, we have commissioned and connected more than 13 DER  plants to our grid, which amount to more than 20% of our energy demand. High DER penetration comes with high demand in reliable and fast communication channels between the plants and the intake substations, as well as to the control center. This is where IEC61850 comes into play.

MC: While you’ve found a certain success in getting to your current approach, surely there are further advances and hurdles to overcome. What are you looking for as your next challenges and steps in the evolution?

FS: We are already working on our next step, which is to construct and commission a full digital substation with LPITs plus primary equipment with embedded digital sensors. This means that all signals will be processed right at the source and transmitted via FO network to digital merging units and IEDs.

My feeling is that of course, the industry needs to do more especially on process bus, and I feel like there is something we are not doing something right. There are just too many devices in the process bus network. My challenge to the power industry is to develop a completely passive NCIT that publishes  IEC61850-9-2 stream straight into the process bus network.    


MC: What are you most looking forward to learning about while at the IEC 61850 conference? Are there any speakers you hope to hear or topics you are eager to hear about?

FS: I am looking forward to hearing from Mr. Christoph Brunner, Alex Apostolov, and Rannveig Loke, as well as from my fellow panel members on “Global implementation.”

If you’re interested in hearing more about the insights Frans has in IEC 61850 implementation, 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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Philippe Hartley's picture
Philippe Hartley on Oct 12, 2019

Exciting stuff! The grid evolution, pulled by economic growth, moves straight to solar, skipping the generational constraints of old technology investments...just as happened there with telecom.

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