Two-thirds of electric power utility survey participants claim to have substation automation programs underway


Ellicott City, MD., September 5, 2002 — The Newton-Evans Research Company has released preliminary findings from its summer long research study of North American utility substation officials.

To date, tabulations of surveys from more than 115 utilities, representing about one third of North American transmission and distribution substations and related assets, suggest that the market for substation automation and integration products, software, systems and services is approaching $200 million for the current year. This amount includes portions of very large contracts covering related work spread over multiple years.

Importantly, many utilities continue to buy from “best in class” suppliers, whether large or small companies. Further, many are buying individual components, equipment and products and “doing their own substation software development and integration,” rather than outsourcing this effort.

The protocol issue continues to suggest that American and Canadian utilities will remain staunch advocates of DNP for use within the substation, and from the substation to external systems. Strong growth in use of UCA2/MMS is expected as well, starting from a small base, with new usage coming primarily from among the TOP 50 or so utilities.

Communications architecture within North American substations currently consists primarily of serial links, with increasing use of LANs evident today, and strong indications of plans for continuing to implement LANs during the next three years. From a wide area networking perspective, serial links also remain prevalent, but a clear trend toward linking the substation to wide area network(s) is pointed to in the survey findings.

RTUs are likely to remain the primary substation information processing task handler, according to this study, with programmable logic controllers next in terms of importance. By 2005, expect to see more PCs in substations.

The use of third-party services for substation-related support activities continues to show promise, with training classes provided by suppliers and other outside service providers being especially important today. There is also evidence of strong interest in using external service organizations for configuration support for intelligent electronic devices, for equipment installation, and for commissioning and testing of new substations.

A parallel study is now being conducted with international utility officials from each world region. Additional topics being covered in the North American study, Volume One of this series, include security issues and practices, voltage ranges used to power substation automation equipment, equipment types included in substation automation and integration programs, specific external systems linkages, preferred equipment suppliers, and an assessment of where North America’s substations are positioned along a five-stage path to complete automation.

Additional information on the four volume study “Worldwide Market for Substation Automation and Integration Programs in Electric Utilities: 2002-2005” is available from the Newton-Evans Research Company, 10176 Baltimore National Pike, Suite 204, Ellicott City, Maryland 21042. Phone: 410-465-7316 or visit www.newton-evans.com. Jeanne Small can be reached by email at jsmall@newton-evans.com and Loretta Smolenski can be reached at lsmolenski@newton-evans.com .

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