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MicroSCADA at 40: Power automation is key to solving distribution challenges

By Tetsuji Maeda
10-10-2023 | 4 min read

Dispatching remains one of the main challenges of a distribution network, according to the Deloitte Power Market Study 2030.

Dispatching incidents are system stability and operation issues caused by the integration of renewable energy & distributed energy resources (DERs), increased faults, and fluctuating loads within an electrical network.

DERs are a good investment, but can operators maintain system stability and enhance productivity?

Solutions can range from investing in intelligent and commercially optimized demand/supply balancing solutions to more user-friendly control systems. In addition, power companies can enhance system productivity through investments in smart grids, smart power distribution, and intelligent solutions for distribution grids.

Essentially, the drive for more digitalization underscores the importance of power automation solutions in efficiently managing electrical infrastructure.

Let’s examine how automation systems have evolved over the past four decades.


40 years of automation innovation

The journey began in Finland in 1981 at Strömberg Oy, the Finnish electrotechnical company. Strömberg Oy joined ASEA in 1986 and then the merged entity of ABB in 1988, whose Power Grids division became Hitachi Energy in 2021.

At the time, the goal was to develop an automation system for remote and local control of substations, disconnector stations, and hydroelectric power plants, as well as remote control of power distribution networks and district heating.

The basic idea and requirement were to integrate the main functions necessary for power management — e.g., monitoring, control, reporting, protection, and optimization — into a unified automation system for local and remote applications, providing customers with an integrated and total automation solution.

Development began in February 1982 with a small team of seven software developers, and the first system, originally called Strömberg Control System (SCS) and later renamed MicroSCADA, was up and running in 1983. This marked the start of a journey that, in 2023, celebrates 40 years of innovation and progress in power automation with 15,000 systems delivered worldwide.

A series of power industry firsts

Since its introduction, the platform has pioneered many firsts in power automation, including being one of the earliest adopters of windowing technology, the mouse, programmable keys, and a flexible application programming language. The new user interface was developed based on the object-oriented programming language, Smalltalk, similar to Apple’s Lisa and Mac.

In 1987, we delivered a complete Distribution Automation system to Övik Energi Nät AB in Sweden with integrated substation automation and network control to form a unified system solution. For the first time, protection parameter settings and monitoring of substation relays could be executed from a remotely located control room.

Other developmental successes included keeping the basic control software independent of the hardware, computer languages, operating systems, and communication systems. This helped isolate the software from the platform, which helped maximize the software lifecycle and protect the customer’s investment.

Another critical decision was to keep new developments fully compatible with previous ones to safeguard investments. This backward and forward compatibility has proved valuable for customers, enabling them to upgrade their hardware and software to newer, faster technology without redoing applications.

What does MicroSCADA look like today?

MicroSCADA has been deployed in more than 10,000 substations, managing and monitoring power across critical infrastructure such as power grids, process industries, hospitals, seaports, and data centers, including more than 67,000 kilometers of rail and 30 airports worldwide.

Since its debut in the first system to Enso Gutzeit Hydro Power in Finland, MicroSCADA has been deployed in more than 170 countries, monitoring the electricity supply to more than 10 percent of the world’s population. Enso Gutzeit, today known as Stora Enso, still uses MicroSCADA as the control system across more than 20 sites in six different countries.

The platform has constantly evolved to adopt new technologies supporting the energy transition as a highly cyber-secure and versatile control, monitoring, and power management solution. Through its evolution, MicroSCADA has been a forerunner in supporting and promoting global standards, including IEC 61850, the international standard defining communication protocols for intelligent electronic devices at electrical substations.

The latest generation, MicroSCADA X, is a fully cloud-enabled solution featuring a next-generation human-machine interface (HMI). The solution is intuitive and adaptive, enabling quick decision-making and enhancing the safety of people and assets.

The browser-based user interface provides the operator flexibility, enabling seamless access from the control room to mobile devices. At the same time, its web-enabled map viewer functionality lets customers quickly evaluate real-time information from the entire power network.

As energy systems evolve, advanced control and information systems will continue to be fundamental to the energy transition's success.

Over the next 40 years and beyond, MicroSCADA will adapt to new customer needs, new technologies, new business models, and the operation of a new, increasingly electric energy system.

If you’d like to learn more about automation systems or how we can help accelerate your digital transformation journey, please contact us

Tetsuji Maeda
Head of Global Product Management for the Automation and Communication Global Product Group within the Grid Automation Business Unit.

Head of Global Product Management for the Automation and Communication Global Product Group within the Grid Automation Business Unit.