Study reveals U.S. utilities falling behind in adoption of essential best practices


By: SGN Staff

By Jesse Berst


A new research study from Newton-Evans found several interesting trends, as you can read in the press release on page 2. What caught my eye was documentation of a disturbing failure by U.S. utilities to stay up to date with standards and best practices.


It's well known that U.S. utilities have been loath to embrace the 61850 substation standard that Europe has adopted with much success. The Newton-Evans study reveals other failures to adopt standards and best practices. For instance, two-thirds of European utilities have adopted key parts of a service-oriented architecture (SOA), an essential piece of the enterprise strategy strongly recommended by the Electric Power Research Institute. Yet only a paltry one-fifth of North American utilities are on the SOA path.


Yes, I know that it's often cheaper in the short run to stick with yesterday's methods. And I know that it is hard to find and afford top-notch IT staff to implement an enterprise architecture. But it is far more costly in the long run to cling to outmoded methodologies, which can lock a utility away from the future.


Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.


Global Spending for Power Delivery Control Systems for 2012-2015 Likely to Exceed $5.5 Billion . . . If Economic Outlook Strengthens, Market Could Reach $6.5 Billion


Standards Compliance for Many Systems Components Important Internationally while Surprisingly High Level of Interest in NERC CIP Compliance Reported From Outside of North America


February 12, 2013. Ellicott City, Maryland. The Newton-Evans Research Company has released its 2013 edition of a four volume study of EMS, SCADA, DMS and OMS usage patterns in the world’s electric power utilities. This release marks the tenth such research program in this series completed since 1984.


Newton-Evans staff conducted surveys and interviews with more than 150 utilities in 37 countries. These included many of the TOP 100 utilities in the world. Among the observations gleaned from interviews and surveys with these utilities, along with views from control systems integrators and power delivery consultants are these:


Rationale for Increased Spending on Control Systems: A number of factors were cited by participants as the basis to support the increased levels of systems augmentation, upgrades and replacements over the next 36 months including the need for new applications to improve operator visualization and situational awareness; adding redundancy to communications pathing; improving cyber defenses; complying with new regulatory mandates; and in some instances, a desire to combine two or more systems onto common platforms.


Differences in International and North American perspectives and approaches to Standards for control systems: The role of international standards is more important to utilities outside of North America than to domestic utilities. While IEC standards compliance dominates systems procurements and communications approaches internationally, in North America the roles of IEEE, ANSI, NEMA and de facto standards play a much more important role. Forty percent of international respondents indicated having a requirement for OPC (Open Platform Communications) compared with only 27% of North American replies. Similarly SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) was viewed as being much more important internationally than was reported by North American respondents. Two-thirds of international utilities and 19% of North American utilities reported interest in using CIM standards for model maintenance related to distribution circuit design transfers from GIS (Geographical Information Systems) to DMS.


Similar Levels of Concern with Cyber Security: Eighty percent of North American utility officials and 82% of international utilities cited a need for cyber security features to be designed as an integral part of their control systems, not provided as an "add-on.” Interestingly, many international utilities are modeling their cyber security mandates for power delivery control systems on North America’s NERC CIPs. Across the world, several utilities also called for control systems integrators to do more to make NERC (and other) compliance and regulatory reporting easier and more automated.


Third Party Control Center Services: Consulting services are being used and more likely to be relied upon to assist with expanding NERC CIP compliance issues, for the conduct of vulnerability assessments and for consulting on smart grid topics. In addition, several comments were directed toward the increased reliance on third party services to assist utilities as they cope with workforce retirements in their operational control centers.


Role of Operational Analytics: Noticeable differences in current and planned usage of operational analytics were found for asset analytics, DMS analytics (load and voltage balancing et al) and customer analytics. Each of these are now being used (or soon will be) more widely internationally than in North American utilities. OMS analytics (e.g., fault location) are of similar levels of usage and plans among both groups.


The four volume study includes separate reports on (1) North America with details by type of utility, (2) International community with detailed findings by world region; (3) Profiles of leading systems integrators and (4) World regional market outlook for each type of power delivery control systems through 2015. The complete set of reports is available for $7,500.00, and individual reports are also available for online ordering.


Further information on this new series entitled The World Market Study of SCADA, Energy Management Systems, Distribution Management Systems and Outage Management Systems in Electric Utilities: 2013-2015 is available from Newton-Evans Research Company, 10176 Baltimore National Pike, Suite 204, Ellicott City, Maryland 21042. Phone: 410-465-7316 or visit us at to order this series or any of more than 100 related reports. Eric Leivo can be reached at . Chuck Newton can be reached at

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