IEC 61850

In this series, we will ask questions around the IEC 61850 standard. Our aim is to evaluate the level of adoption of different actors we work with, the challenges of such paradigm shift, but also its opportunities and first successes.

About the interviewee:

Jörg Reuter is the founder and director of Swiss company Helinks LLC. The firm develops engineering tools according to IEC 61850 and created Helinks STS, an IEC 61850 design and configuration tool. As expert of the standard, Jörg gives advice regarding its implementation and shares his thoughts on future developments.


Which main benefit is commonly underestimated regarding the use of IEC 61850?

"When people are asked to think of advantages of IEC 61850, they often name saving in cabling costs and reduced working time in hazardous areas. However, the potential of the IEC 61850 data model to standardise and streamline the engineering process is underestimated. Properly done, this results in reducing engineering time and maintenance costs. By providing formalised IEC 61850-based detailed system specifications, Utilities impose their standardised design. Similar substations have similar solutions."

Conversely, what is the most underestimated risk of switching to a digitalised IEC 61850 substation?

"Adopting IEC 61850 requires trained people and impacts the way in which different departments and suppliers are interacting with each other. Process and organisational changes present the biggest challenge in a transition towards an IEC 61850 substation."

Based on your experience, what should professionals be aware of when planning a transition to a digitised substation?

"Professionals should not only focus on technology, but include the entire organisation, the processes and most importantly, they should start with simple steps."

"Process and organisational changes present the biggest challenge in a transition towards an IEC 61850 substation. "

Jörg Reuter

In a few words, what are the main steps to initiate your journey towards IEC 61850?

"The main steps are the following: 


  • Learn about IEC 61850

  • Build an inhouse Lab

  • Select the proper tools

  • Define a pilot project without time pressure

  • Involve experienced suppliers and consultants"

What about the perennity of IEC 61850, how is it ensured in the standard definition?

"A broad installation base of IEC 61850 in our networks will bring Utilities and Suppliers to the table – the standardisation working groups – to keep IEC 61850 living and evolving."

According to you, what does the future look like in terms of substation digitalisation, central IED, and virtualisation?

"I see quite a few future developments. IEC 61850 will grow into more domains with additional Data Models. There will be close integration between IEC 61850 and IoT, even competition in certain areas. Intelligent Process Interfaces will communicate with Virtual IEDs. There will also be a transition from individual IEDs to centralised hardware, driven by virtualisation as well as plug and play with intelligent integrated test concepts to ensure quality of service." 

"We would like to thank Jörg Reuter for sharing his extensive knowledge on IEC 61850 and expert advice on how to operate an efficient implementation."

Elvexys Team