How to digitize energy projects: COPA-DATA releases IEC 61850 whitepaper

International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standard 61850 — communication networks and systems for power utility automation was introduced to provide a protocol for power plants and substations to allow communication and monitoring between devices and facilities. Automation software supplier, COPA-DATA is releasing a new whitepaper to provide a comprehensive overview of the standard and what it means for the digitalization of power suppliers.

Digitalization has rapidly become commonplace in recent years, with more sectors turning to intelligent solutions to manage operations. Power systems and substations have always required reliable and effective communication systems to monitor supply and distribution, highlighting the need for a standardized protocol that could be used across all substations. This need was addressed by International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standard 61850 — communication networks and systems for power utility automation.

Standardization and interoperability

IEC 61850 is a series of standards outlining communication protocols for intelligent electronic devices and equipment in substations and power plants. The standard was created to support automation systems and function along with their engineering, offering a unified method of communication.

The COPA-DATA whitepaper, entitled Successful digitalization in energy projects with IEC 61850: An executive overview, aims to clarify the importance of IEC 61850 and highlight its benefits — it not only provides a communication protocol, but a wealth of other important advantages to users.

A key advantage of IEC 61850 is that it offers interoperability between station equipment and intelligent devices, regardless of the vendor or manufacturer. This enables users to combine different products for convenience of equipment exchange or replacement, as engineers are not reliant on a single manufacturer.

The financial savings also extend to wiring, maintenance and engineering costs, all of which are reduced when using secure digital networks instead of physical cabling. It can also future proof a power operation, with enhanced adaptability through software configuration and updates. Updates and reconfigurations can easily be carried out to meet changing requirements at both plant and industrial levels, and device interoperability gives more freedom for independent equipment and system design.

The COPA-DATA whitepaper discusses how power operations can digitalize a substation and successfully implement IEC 61850, and how the zenon software platform can be used to achieve this. zenon offers integrated solutions to connect, monitor and control substation equipment and acts as a communication gateway, with easy access to visualize and data for system optimization. The paper includes case studies exploring how several power companies have used zenon to provide functional and cost-effective solutions to roll out these protocols.

“The whitepaper explains the standard and its implications for power suppliers — it not only improves substation communication, but can be used to create smart grids that meet changing demands in power supply,” explained Jürgen Resch, Industry Manager for Energy and Infrastructure at COPA-DATA. “zenon represents a secure and sustainable way to support power utility automation projects in line with IEC 61850 regardless of scale, enhancing flexibility and adaptability in an evolving industry.”

Download the whitepaper here or visit for more information.