Compatibility and interconnectivity

All power grids need IECEE certification for trouble-free operation

By Claire Marchand

Electricity is so deeply entrenched in our lives that we take it for granted…until there’s a power outage. Whether on a small or large scale, power outages may have dire social and economic consequences: no lights in homes, offices, public places; disruption of public transportation services; temporary factory shutdown, to name but a few. In recent years, major power outages have been able to paralyze whole regions or countries in North and South America, Europe and Asia. Can this happen again? Probably, but there are ways of ensuring that energy generation, transmission and distribution occurs in the safest, most reliable and efficient way possible.

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Long-standing leading role

Governments, industries and utilities have several tools at their disposal to ensure the optimum operation of their electrical networks. Among these, international standardization and conformity assessment play a major role at all stages of development, from design and manufacture of the equipment to its deployment.

Since the very beginning, the IEC has been at the forefront of standardization in the field of electrical energy generation, transmission and distribution. The first half of the 20th century saw the establishment of several TCs (Technical Committees) that have produced International Standards for electric cables, power transformers, electrical accessories, fuses and other categories of product.

As technologies have evolved, more committees have been added to cover all aspects of energy generation, transmission and distribution, including renewable energies, the Smart Grid, smart cities and buildings, e-mobility and energy efficiency. The millions of electrical and electronics devices used in homes, offices and factories, healthcare facilities and public areas have also had an effect.

Global markets: International Standards more relevant than ever

The emergence of globalization and the firm establishment of today’s global markets set the seal on the demise of national monopolies on electricity. End-users can generally choose between several suppliers, while many utilities have expanded and now operate in several countries. It is therefore essential that all players in the energy sector have a common denominator, a universal language that helps avoid disruption in their services. Using IEC International Standards to build and expand power grids and upgrade them for the "smart (r)evolution" makes even more sense today and ensures compatibility and connectivity of networks within a country and across borders.

Building electrical networks, installations, systems and equipment to International Standards is one thing. Making certain that they are of the highest quality and reliability so that they perform well and are safe is another.

This is where IECEE, the IEC System of Conformity Assessment Schemes for Electrotechnical Equipment and Components, comes into play. In its almost 30 years of existence – it was set up in 1985 – IECEE has established an unsurpassed worldwide reputation for the testing and certification of electrical and electronic equipment.

The IECEE CB Scheme provides the assurance that tested and certified electrical equipment – and its components – meets the strictest levels of safety, functionality and performance in compliance with the relevant IEC International Standards.

Addressing specific needs

IECEE has several product categories that list the relevant IEC International Standards in one particular field. These are of the utmost importance to the energy sector, and focus on specific aspects of it. Relevant categories are: Cables and cords (CABL), Safety transformers and similar equipment (SAFE), Installation protective equipment (PROT), Installation accessories and connection devices (INST).

Smart future?

IECEE is also preparing for the future and developing a new service. A Working Group, PSC (Policy and Strategy Committee) WG 2A, was set up in 2011 to explore the potential for and practicality of conformity assessment applications in the areas of smart homes, smart buildings and smart industry. IECEE is working closely with industry to ensure that the upcoming service meets all market needs. (see article in e-tech November 2013)

Multiple benefits

Whether smart or traditional, the energy sector can only benefit from the use of IEC International Standards and IECEE certification.

For manufacturers, the advantages of having their equipment tested and certified to IECEE Schemes are manifold. Equipment tested and certified in one country will be accepted for national certification in all other IECEE member countries. Even better, global acceptance of the IECEE CB Scheme through CB Test Certificates and the associated CB Test Report is also often effective in countries that are not part of the IECEE community. In effect, an IECEE CB Test Certificate is a global passport. This also means that equipment, installations and systems will be compatible. Because they "speak the same language", power grids operated by different utilities can be interconnected, thus eliminating any disruption in the transmission and distribution of electricity to their customers within a country or across borders.

IECEE certification also means speed to market, a reduction in costs and the elimination of duplicate or multiple testing. It provides equipment manufacturers, National Certification Bodies, regulators and utilities with a high level of confidence in terms of the universal applicability of their products.

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Switches and insulators on a transformer in a power plant Switches and insulators on a transformer in a power plant
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