Last Updated S012019


Unit Name Data Communication For Power System Monitoring
Unit Code BEE306S
Unit Duration 1 Semester

Bachelor of Science (Engineering)

Duration 3 years    

Year Level Three
Unit Creator / Reviewer N/A
Core/Sub-discipline: Sub-discipline
Pre/Co-requisites BEE207S
Credit Points


Total Course Credit Points 81 (27 x 3)

Mode of Delivery Online or on-campus. 
Unit Workload (Total student workload including “contact hours” = 10 hours per week; 5 hours per week for 24 week delivery)
Pre-recordings / Lecture – 1.5 hours
Tutorial – 1.5 hours
Guided labs / Group work / Assessments – 2 hours
Personal Study recommended – 5 hours

Unit Description and General Aims

The objective of this unit is to impart to students a detailed knowledge of the imperatives and configurations used for remote monitoring of power systems, particularly communication hardware and protocols. Information presented in this unit will also include: the importance of vendor-independent systems; how this objective is achieved by various standardisation efforts, including IEC standard 61850; and, the role played by OPC specifications. Students will complete a project covering the design of a power system monitoring facility for a distribution network of a large city.

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this Unit, students are expected to be able to:

  1. Explain the need/importance of remote monitoring and control of large power networks, and the emphasis on security.
    Bloom’s Level 2
  2. Apply the basic principles of industrial data communications to a range of scenarios.
    Bloom’s Level 3
  3. Evaluate and compare the communication protocols adopted in power network monitoring systems according to an application.
    Bloom’s Level 5
  4. Demonstrate using practical examples of how the standardisation of communication devices and protocols can achieve vendor independent systems.
    Bloom’s Level 3
  5. Demonstrate the application of OPC data access specifications in power network monitoring systems.
    Bloom’s Level 3
  6. Analyse the role of IEC 61850 standards for power system automation.
    Bloom’s Level 4

Student assessment

Assessment Type When assessed Weighting (% of total unit marks) Learning Outcomes Assessed

Assessment 1

Type: Multi-choice test / Group work / Short answer questions / Practical / Remote Lab / Simulation

Example Topic: Power system monitoring and communication basics.

Students will complete a written assignment with about 30 questions to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of power system monitoring and the importance of data communication in such systems.

Due after Topic 6 15% 1, 2

Assessment 2

Type: Multi-choice test / Group work / Short answer questions / Practical / Remote Lab / Simulation

Example Topic: Communication protocols and need for standardisation

Students will complete a test with about 20 questions of numerical problems and short answer questions (each to be answered in less than 100 words and explanatory diagrams)to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of communication protocols used in monitoring power networks and the need for standards.

Due after Topic 9 20% 3, 4

Assessment 3

Type: Multi-choice test / Group work / Short answer questions / Practical / Remote Lab / Simulation / Project / Report

Example Topic: Students will complete a project covering the design of a power system monitoring facility for a distribution network of a large city.

Due After Topic 11 20% 2, 3, 4

Assessment 4

Type: Examination

An examination with a mix of detailed essay type questions and numerical problems to be completed within 2 hours.

Final Week 40% All

Attendance / Tutorial Participation

Example: Presentation, discussion, group work, exercises, self-assessment/reflection, case study analysis, application.

Continuous 5%  

Prescribed and Recommended Readings

Required textbook(s)

IDC Technologies course manuals:
1. Data communication and networking protocols
2. IEC 61850 for substation automation
3. DNP3, IEC 60870.5 and Modern SCADA Communication Systems

Reference Materials

References from authentic websites on the Internet.

For example: : An Interactive Tutorial: The definite guide for OPC.

Unit Content


Topics 1 and 2

Remote monitoring and control of power networks with a focus on ensuring secure operations

1. History of power system automation
2. Automation at local (substation) level and network level
3. Hardware used (RTU), PLC, and IED
4. Limitations of RTU/PLC type of devices
5. Typical automation configurations
6. Comparison of different configurations
7. Conventional (telemetry-based) communication
8. Digital communication methods/equipment
9. Comparison and applications of communication methods
10. Dedicated communication networks vs public networks
11. Security concerns while using public networks
12. Smart grids as drivers of electrical network automation

Topics 3, 4 and 5

Basics of data communications

1. Definitions and basic principles
2. Analogue and digital signals
3. Serial and parallel communication
4. Synchronous and asynchronous communication methods
5. Full and half-duplex communication
6. Message codes and message formats
7. Interface standards (RS 232, RS 485, 10 base T, 10 base T, 100 Base T etc)
8. OSI reference model and examples
9. Data cables and wiring categories
10. Role of fibre-optics and fibre/copper interface
11. Communication topologies and networks (LAN, WAN)
12. Wireless (Radio, Microwave, Satellite) communications and standards adopted
13. Function and operating principle of Modems
14. Protection of data by encryption
15. Common encryption methods
16. Virtual private networks

Topics 6 and 7

Different communication protocols and their application

1. What is a protocol?
2. Common protocols used in industrial data communication
3. Ethernet (CSMA/CD) and token ring
4. TCP/IP V4 and V6
5. Modbus and Modbus plus
6. ProfiBus
7. Device Net
9. Profibus
10. Foundation FieldBus
11. DNP3
12. UCA

Topic 8

Standards used in Industrial and power system data communications

1. IEEE 802 standards suite for LAN communication
2. IEC 802 (Wireless communication)
3. IEC 60870
4. IEC 61107
5. IEC 62056

Topic 9

OPC data access specification and their role in SCADA

1. Objective
2. Need for data exchange standard
3. Basis of OPC standards
4. Structure of OPC specifications
5. OPC specifications for different functions
6. OPC data exchange specification
7. OPC security

Topics 10 and 11

IEC 61850 for vendor-independent communication

1. Scope and outline
2. Services under the standard
3. Data objects and classes
4. Manufacturing messaging specifications (MMS)
5. Substation architecture
6. Merging units, station, and process bus
7. Ethernet communication within substations
8. Switches and bridges
9. WAN communication issues
10. Data modelling approach
11. Communication profiles
12. Samples values, GOOSE, GSSE
13. Substation configuration language
14. Conformance and testing

Topic 12

Unit Review

In the final week, students will have an opportunity to review the contents covered so far. Opportunity will be provided for a review of student work and to clarify any outstanding issues. Instructors/facilitators may choose to cover a specialized topic if applicable to that cohort.

Software/Hardware Used


  • Software: PSSE; ETAP

  • Version: N/A

  • Instructions:  N/A

  • Additional resources or files: N/A


  • N/A