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Effect of Distribution Automation on Protective Relaying

By Fredric A. Friend, AEP, USA

IEEE Working Group Report
Modern protection technology allows some possibilities that can be used to optimize the operation of the
network in coordination with DA applications and, on the other hand, DA application deployment may
have some impact on relaying. Protective relays and controls are often a key part of DA; they provide
information and, also, may be used to execute controls. This document expresses some thoughts on this
matter by providing a brief history, describing how various schemes can effect relaying, describing the
effect on relay applications and settings, and concluding with the impact on system maintenance. The
purpose of this document is to explore the effect on protective relaying when DA is applied on a
distribution system. For this purpose, DA is defined as the sectionalization and reconfiguration of
distribution circuits that include the use of automatic or remote-controlled transfer switches, line
reclosers, fault interrupters, sectionalizers, and / or automated capacitor controls.
The first sections of the document include common definitions, key abbreviations and acronyms that the
reader needs to know. This is followed by a short history of distribution automation intended to help
protection specialists that do not have experience with DA to better see the relationships with protective
relaying. This section covers two aspects and stages in the history: station distribution automation and
line distribution automation.
Today's distribution automation applications are described in the
next section of the report. DA has evolved to include a wide
gamut of applications that include monitoring, control, reconfiguration,
reporting, and evaluation:
Remote monitoring

Typically use SCADA protocols such as DNP3 or metering

protocols - ANSI C12

Fault detection at feeder devices (e.g., faulted circuit indicators

- FCI)

Circuit measurements (e.g. voltage, steady-state/fault current, and/or real/reactive power from
discrete CTs, VTs and/or FCIs for both overhead and underground circuits)

Load measurements (e.g. energy, voltage, current and/or real/reactive power from AMI billing or
distributed generation meters)

Remote monitoring with control

Typically use SCADA protocols such as DNP3

Voltage and VAR control (e.g. power measurements and voltage or VAR regulation with line
capacitor banks or line voltage regulators)

Generation control (e.g. power measurements and generation mode of distributed generation)

Remote monitoring with circuit reconfiguration

Typically use SCADA protocols such as DNP3

Equipment status (e.g. open or close of station or circuit switches)

Fault detection, isolation and restoration (e.g. fault detection, power measurements, and open or
close with line reclosers or switchgear with fault interrupters)

Typically use file transfer protocols

Power quality measurements (e.g. harmonic content from high-end meters or monitoring/control

Disturbance recordings (e.g. fault signatures or oscillographics from high-end meters or

monitoring/control devices)


Remote or local

Accurate fault location (e.g. based on analysis of fault currents, voltages and/or disturbance

Spare capacity for circuit reconfiguration (e.g. based on assumed equipment capabilities and
historical power measurements)
Many of these applications can share functions, sensors, and especially communications with other DA
applications. This integration, when properly planned, can reduce costs and improve benefits to the
global DA system.
DA schemes come in many varieties and complexities that range from simple applications that use local,
independent equipment to system-wide, centrally-controlled automation. Localized schemes that use
some form of intelligence can be connected to large control centers which can also be connected to even
larger central control centers.
DA schemes, such as Fault Location, Isolation, and Service Restoration (FLISR) or Optimal Network
Reconfiguration, that reconfigure or change the distribution circuit can affect protective relaying. These
schemes can also impact the fault level contribution and direction, particularly for systems operating in
loop mode or have distributed resources.
Local intelligence: Localized DA schemes are applications where automatic functions occur with minimal
communication between devices. Functionality is contained within the device and occurs based on
external stimuli, such as voltage and current. For example, Figure 1 shows a simple transfer scheme of
Breaker T in which Loads X and Y are maintained in the event of the loss of either Line A or B. Assume a
Line A fault that causes Breaker 1 to open. The Breaker 1 auxiliary contact is an input to the Breaker T
control scheme and initiates a closure of Breaker T. After Breaker 1 is restored, Breaker T automatically
opens. The Breaker T controls may contain transfer or restoration time delays. In some schemes, loss of
voltage initiates breaker operation instead of auxiliary contact logic.

Distributed intelligence - also referred to as decentralized intelligence applies communication and

software to localized sectionalizing and fault-interrupting devices to provide automated control within a
defined area that can vary from a simple circuit segment to a region where multiple circuits interconnect
several substations. While these devices are primarily controlled at the installed location, rather than
from a central location, the shared software and communication distribute the data pertaining to the
event or condition among the devices to effect the required circuit reconfigurations.
Central intelligence: DA schemes utilizing central intelligence take the concepts associated with localized
or distributed intelligence schemes and apply them across larger control areas. A centralized intelligence
scheme can determine the optimal switching sequences, and if desired, issue the switching commands
to optimize FLISR and other advanced functionality, including Optimal Network Configuration, Volt-VAR
Optimization (VVO), and Dynamic Equipment Rating (DER).
Requirements for telecommunication: DA depends on good telecommunication systems, which no matter
the media and protocols used, must be reliable and robust. They also must be designed and
implemented in an understandable way to ensure any required trouble-shooting is straightforward. They
must be designed in such a way that a failure of communications does not cause a failure in basic
protection. Since a good telecommunications system is the cornerstone of distribution automation,
potential workforce jurisdictional problems, internal or external, need to be considered, during planning,
implementation, and on-going operation.
Effects on Relay Applications and Settings:
Circuit reconfiguration has effect on relay applications and consists in the modification of the topology of
a distribution network by operating NC and NO switches. Sectionalizing Switches located along the
feeders are NC and allow isolating sections of the feeder when required, while Tie Switches connected
between two feeders are NO and allow transferring loads between the feeders when they are closed.
The selection of the location of tie and section nodes is based on flexibility criteria. Load serving issues,
looping and Fault Location, Isolation and Service Restoration (FLISR) are discussed from the
perspective of relay applications later in the section. Figures 2 and 3 show the result of FLISR following a
fault in Z2.
The report also analyzes the impact on various protection schemes, zones of protection, protection
coordination and adaptive relaying. Protection functional requirements after reactive circuit
reconfiguration, such as for the cases of fuse saving/ sacrificing, fault locating, remote or alternate
settings, and especially DR are also described.
Impact of system maintenance on distribution automation is discussed at the end of the report, which will
be published on the IEEE PES PSRC web site.
Background on D11
In 2005 DA was becoming a hot topic and I had a desire to learn more, so I requested the Line Protection
Subcommitte to form a task force to study the issue to determine if there was indeed an effect on
relaying, which ultimately lead to a working group. After many presentations from various utility practices,
the working group began developing a paper with many lively meetings as DA began evolving in the
The working group had many discussions regarding whether we were looking at the effect of DA on
relaying, or the effect of protective relaying on DA. The document ultimately shaped up with sections on
the history of DA, the effects on relay applications and settings, and the impact of system maintenance.
Some supplemental information is provided in two annexes, including a history from the Duquesne Light