SCADA/EMS Evolves with Industry

SCADA/EMS Evolves with Industry

By Teresa Hansen, Senior Editor

Even though growth in the United States has slowed in the past few years (see “World Markets Fuel SCADA/EMS Growth,” page 17), SCADA/EMS still has a bright future in this country. Some industry experts expect the U.S. market to grow as the electric industry moves to full competition. Many utilities, hesitant to invest in new systems due to uncertainties caused by deregulation, may be forced to upgrade their systems in order to prosper in the competitive market. As independent system operators (ISO), such as the one planned for California, or similar entities are implemented, many believe SCADA/EMS will take on new functions.

Tracking and Monitoring

David Nelson, ABB System Controls` product manager, believes that open access will bring about a demand for new tools and technology to track electricity exchanges and load changes. He said under open access, utilities will need to track much more than just how much electricity is flowing in and out of their systems. These new requirements are elevating SCADA/EMS to a new level, resulting in a new generation of SCADA/EMS.

Traditionally, all electricity in a utility`s substation and wires belonged to the utility, but with open access, this will no longer be the case. As electric utilities unbundle, operations that were traditionally one utility`s responsibility (transmission, distribution and generation) will most likely become three separate companies` responsibility. ISOs, or some similar entity, will essentially take over much of the utilities` transmission control, requiring them in many cases to relinquish a great deal of their EMS operation. However, Nelson believes that utilities will still want to maintain an EMS to monitor electricity transmissions.

SCADA/EMS may also become an important tool for litigation concerns, said Nelson. If a utility`s relay trips and interrupts another utility`s load, the cause of the interruption must be explained. Therefore, capturing the entire sequence of events will be critical in proving that the interruption was technically necessary, not merely a commercial or competitive decision. To capture this type of information, many utilities will have to make additional system investments.

Transmission System Potential

In addition to placing new requirements on existing SCADA/EMS systems, open access also adds a whole new level of energy control and management. In order for the California ISO, and similar entities currently being planned in other states, to interface with utilities` SCADA/EMS operations and control electricity transmission, technology advancements and new installations will be required. These new systems provide SCADA/EMS vendors with new challenges, as well as new opportunities.

A contract of more than $50 million was recently awarded to the ISO Alliance, a consortium comprised of ABB Power T&D Co., Ernst & Young LLP and Perot Systems Corp. The ISO Alliance will supply scheduling and business systems to California`s ISO and ensure reliable and economical operation of the state`s power grid. According to Nelson, this first-of-a-kind scheduling and business system will include one of the world`s largest SCADA/EMS systems. The business and scheduling systems will track reserve power capacity, determine reactive power needed to maintain voltage at the delivery point and provide other services. Beginning Jan. 1, 1998, California utilities` SCADA/EMS systems will interface with the new ISO. On Jan. 1, 1999, the ISO will take over transmission system operations.

The scheduling and business systems will also provide California`s ISO with user interfaces and calculation mechanisms needed to perform the necessary aspects of daily business, including collection, adjustments and power transfer schedule consolidation. The systems will be able to accurately account for billable items, such as transmission charges, ancillary services used to increase competitiveness and adjustments for schedule deviations, in addition to providing settlement reports. According to Nelson, a number of new ISOs, currently being planned, will probably begin operation in 1998, providing vendors with numerous opportunities.

Allison Fowler, PennWell Research`s manager, also sees opportunities for SCADA/EMS vendors in the U.S. market. She said PennWell`s studies indicate that SCADA/EMS is moving into the transmission arena. Systems are becoming larger and more complex, she said. “While SCADA/EMS may be on the decline, or at least on a plateau for distribution systems in the United States, it is on the increase for transmission systems,” Fowler said.

PC and Internet Technologies

In addition to this move to transmission-related management, SCADA/EMS has undergone several other important changes in the past few years. According to Fowler, the past two to three years have shown a strong migration in the United States to PC-based systems not only by electric utilities, but by gas and water utilities as well (see figure). “We`re seeing a shift away from workstation-based SCADA to PC-based systems, a trend that started in the United States and now is spreading to the global growth markets,” Fowler said.

Heather Cook, ABB System Controls` marketing and communications specialist, said PC-based SCADA/EMS will be very beneficial to smaller utilities entering the deregulated marketplace. “PC-based SCADA will allow smaller utilities to obtain the information they need at an affordable price, while using a technology that is available and understandable,” Cook said.

According to Nelson, SCADA/EMS users are following a trend that is taking place in the entire information technology industry. He said the network, or server, is becoming the computer. Companies are using smaller clients, or workstations such as PCs, and putting information on the network. Nelson believes Internet technology is going to play a key role in SCADA/EMS functionality. He said the strong link between SCADA/EMS and Open Access Same-Time Information System, which uses Internet technology, is driving the change. Web browsers such as Netscape Navigator and Microsoft`s Internet Explorer are expected to become important components of future SCADA systems.

Cook feels that one of the most important improvements seen in the SCADA/EMS market in the last five years is graphical user interface (GUI). GUI enables the operator to point and click on different icons and symbols and call up increasingly detailed information. The information is displayed on an easy-to-read display or map. Various-sized voltage lines are depicted in different colors; relays, switches and similar equipment are color coded; and blinking alarms call attention to unusual conditions. “Today`s GUI systems are a major improvement over systems of the past that showed one-color line diagrams on a screen,” said Cook.

Although the money being spent by U.S. utilities on SCADA/EMS has declined, those familiar with the industry and technology are quick to point out that markets still exist. Just as the industry is changing and evolving, so are technologies that support the industry. As the industry is deregulated, SCADA/EMS will play a big role in providing utilities with the technology needed to be successful in a competitive environment.

Click here to enlarge image

One of the biggest improvements in SCADA/EMS technology has been the use of graphical user interface. Maps with color-coded transmission lines and pull-down menus, like the one pictured here, have made SCADA/EMS operation much easier.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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