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Electric Power Systems Research 66 (2003) 5 /14


What is power quality?

M.H.J. Bollen *
Department of Electric power Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, Horsalsvagen 11, Gothenburg 412 96, Sweden

This paper introduces the terminology and various issues related to power quality. The interest in power quality is explained in
the context of a number of much wider developments in power engineering: deregulation of the electricity industry, increased
customer-demands, and the integration of renewable energy sources. After an introduction of the different terminology two power
quality disturbances are discussed in detail: voltage dips and harmonic distortion. For each of these two disturbances, a number of
other issues are briefly discussed, which are characterisation, origin, mitigation, and the need for future research.
# 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Power quality; Harmonic distortion; Voltage dips

1. Introduction
Classically, the aim of the electric power system is to
generate electrical energy and to deliver this energy to
the end-user equipment at an acceptable voltage. The
constraint that was traditionally mentioned is that the
technical aim should be achieved for reasonable costs.
The optimal level of investment was to be obtained by
means of a trade-off between reliability and costs. A
recurring argument with industrial customers concerned
the definition of reliability: should it include only long
interruptions or also short interruptions or even voltage
dips. The term power quality came in use referring to the
other characteristics of the supply voltage (i.e. other
than long interruptions). But, immediately, the first
confusion started as utilities included the disturbances
generated by the customers in the term power quality.
This difference in emphasis will be discussed in more
detail below. The main complaint of domestic customers
concerned the costs which were perceived too high,
especially where cross-subsidising was used to keep
prices low for industrial or agricultural customers.
This classical model of the power system, as it can be
found in many textbooks, is found in Fig. 1. The
customers are traditionally referred to as loads.

* Tel.: /46-31-772-3832; fax: /46-31-772-1633.

E-mail address:
(M.H.J. Bollen).

Various developments have led to a different view at

the power system. These developments are strongly
interrelated, but the three main ones are:
. The deregulation of the electricity industry makes
that there is no longer one single system but a number
of independent companies with customers.
. Electricity customers have become more aware of
their rights and demand low-cost electricity of high
reliability and quality, where the priorities are
different for different (types of) customers. Customers are certainly no longer willing to accept their
position as merely one parameter in a global optimisation.
. Generation of electricity is shifting away from large
power stations connected to the transmission system
towards smaller units connected at lower voltage
levels. Examples are combined-heat-and-power and
renewable sources of energy like sun and wind.
Because of this the power system can no longer be
seen as one entity but as an electricity network with
customers. This new model is shown in Fig. 2. Note that
the physical structure of the power system/network has
not changed, it is only the way of viewing it that has
In Fig. 2 the electric power network connects some or
many customers. Customers may generate or consume
electrical energy, or even both albeit at different
moments in time. Different customers have different

0378-7796/03/$ - see front matter # 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.

M.H.J. Bollen / Electric Power Systems Research 66 (2003) 5 /14

Fig. 1. Classical model of the power system.

Fig. 2. Modern model of the power system.

demands on voltage magnitude, frequency, waveform,

etc. Different customers have different patterns of
current variation, fluctuation and distortion, thus polluting the voltage for other customers in different ways.
The power network in Fig. 2 could be a transmission
network, a distribution network, an industrial network,
or any other network owned by one single company.
For a transmission network, the customers are, e.g.,
generator stations, distribution networks, large industrial customers (who could be generating or consuming
electricity at different times, based on the electricity
price at that moment), and other transmission networks.
For a distribution network, the customers are currently
mainly end-users that only consume electricity, but also
the transmission network and smaller generator stations
are customers. Note that all customers are equal, even
though some may be producing energy while others are
consuming it. The aim of the network company is only
to transport the energy, or in economic terms: to enable
transactions between customers.
The technical aim of the power network becomes one
of allowing the transport of electrical energy between
the different customers, guaranteeing an acceptable
voltage and allowing the currents taken by the customers.
With an ideal network each customer should perceive
the electricity supply as an ideal voltage source with a
zero impedance. Whatever the current is, the voltage
should be constant. As always, reality is not ideal.
Power quality concerns this deviation between reality
and ideal.
Note that this same model also becomes attractive
when considering the integration of renewable or other
environmentally /friendly sources of energy into the
power system. The power network is no longer the

boundary condition that limits e.g. the amount of wind

power that can be produced at a certain location.
Instead the power networks task becomes to enable
the transport of the amount of wind power that is
produced. It will be clear to the reader that the final
solution should be found in co-operation between the
customer and the network operator considering various
technical and economic constrains.
There are many aspects to the limitations set by the
network on the market. A much discussed one is the
limited ability of the network to transport energy. Note
that lack of generation capacity is not a deficiency of the
network but a deficiency of the market.
In this modern way of looking at power systems, the
utility no longer buys and sells energy, but instead sells
transport capacity and access to the network.
This paper will give a short overview of power quality
with emphasis on the two issues that currently receive
most attention: harmonic distortion and voltage dips.
But first another attempt will be made at defining the
term power quality.

2. Definitions
There is a lot of confusion on the meaning of the term
power quality, not in the least because power is used
as a synonym for electricity in American English
whereas it is also the energy transport per unit of time.
Different authors use different definitions. A consistent
set of definitions is given as follows:
. Voltage quality is concerned with deviations of the
voltage from the ideal. The ideal voltage is a singlefrequency sine wave of constant amplitude and
. Current quality is the complementary term to voltage
quality: it is concerned with the deviation of the
current from the ideal. The ideal current is again a
single-frequency sine wave of constant amplitude and
frequency, with the additional requirement that the
current sine wave is in phase with the voltage sine
. Power quality is the combination of voltage quality
and current quality.
. Quality of supply is a combination of voltage quality
and the non-technical aspects of the interaction from
the power network to its customers.
. Quality of consumption is the complementary term to
quality of supply.
Note that not all these terms are equally commonly
used, especially current quality and quality of consumption are used more frequently. Also note that other
sources give other, often conflicting, definitions. All
definitions given above apply to the interface between

M.H.J. Bollen / Electric Power Systems Research 66 (2003) 5 /14

the network (company) and the customer. This may be

for example a domestic customer and the public lowvoltage distribution network, an individual plant and
the industrial medium-voltage distribution network, a
power station and a transmission network, or a transmission network and a distribution network. The term
power quality is certainly not restricted to the interaction between the power grid and end-user equipment.
The term electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) has in
this context a more restricted meaning: it applies only to
the interaction between equipment and its electromagnetic environment (e.g. the power system). Strictly
speaking it would thus only apply to low-voltage
networks but the terminology is also being applied to
higher voltage levels. Note that in the international
(IEC) standards power quality is treated as a subset of
Power quality disturbances (i.e. deviations of voltage
and/or current from the ideal) come in two types, based
on the way a characteristic of voltage or current is
. Variations are small deviations of voltage or current
characteristics from its nominal or ideal value, e.g.
the variation of voltage r.m.s. value and frequency
from their nominal values, or the harmonic distortion
of voltage and current. Variations are disturbances
that are measured at any moment in time. Harmonic
distortion will be discussed as an example of a power
quality variation.
. Events are larger deviations that only occur occasionally, e.g. voltage interruptions or load switching
currents. Events are disturbances that start and end
with a threshold crossing. Voltage dips will be treated
below as an example.
The difference between variations and events is not
always obvious, and related to the way in which the
disturbance is measured. The best way of distinguishing
between the two is as follows: variations can be
measured at any moment in time; events require waiting
for a voltage or current characteristic to exceed a predefined threshold. As the setting of a threshold is always
somewhat arbitrary there is no clear border between
variations and events. Still the distinction between them
remains useful and it is in fact done (implicitly of
explicitly) in almost any power quality study. However,
note that here also there is no consistency in terminology. For example, measurements of the r.m.s. voltage
can be the basis for a variation (when 10-min averages
are continuously recorded) but also for an event
(starting and ending when the r.m.s. voltage dips below
90% of the nominal voltage).
The definitions of power quality events and variations
as given here are much wider than the general interpretation of power quality. This has to do with the fact

that power quality remains in most cases as a part of the

phrase bad power quality. A power quality disturbance
is only seen as an issue when it causes problems, either
for the customer or for the network operator. Voltage
dips and harmonics are seen as a power quality issue by
many; but voltage and frequency variations are not seen
as a power quality issue because the latter were
incorporated in the design of power systems many years

3. Harmonic distortion
The term harmonics refers to the decomposition of a
non-sinusoidal but periodic signal into a sum of
sinusoidal components:
f (t)


Ah cos(2phf0  8 h )


with Ah and 8h amplitude and phase angle for harmonic

order h, f0 /1/T and T the period. For a power system
operating at 50 Hz, any non-sinusoidal voltage or
current can be decomposed into a fundamental (50
Hz) component plus a number of harmonic components
with frequencies that are a multiple integer of 50 Hz.
The latter are called harmonic components. The 150-Hz
component (h /3) is referred to as the third harmonic,
A more appropriate term would be waveform
distortion where one could distinguish between:
. Harmonic distortion is distortion where the waveform
is non-sinusoidal but periodic with a period equal to
the period of the power system frequency (50 or 60
Hz). Most of the literature on waveform distortion
only considers this harmonic distortion, which is an
acceptable approximation in many cases. However
most power quality studies consider more or less
exceptional situations, so that we cannot limit
ourselves to harmonic distortion only.
. The presence of a dc component can be seen as a
special case of harmonic distortion, but is often
treated separately due to difference in measurement
techniques and consequences.
. Interharmonic distortion is mathematically the same
as harmonic distortion. The difference with harmonic
distortion is that the period is a multiple of the period
of the power system frequency. For example, a 50 Hz
signal with a 180 Hz interharmonic component has a
period of 100 ms (5 cycles of 50 Hz, 18 cycles of 180
Hz). Mathematically, a frequency component at an
irrational multiple of the power system frequency
would lead to a non-periodic signal, but that case
does not need to be considered in practice. Interharmonic distortion is discussed in more detail in [1].

M.H.J. Bollen / Electric Power Systems Research 66 (2003) 5 /14

. Subharmonic components are components with a

frequency less than the power system frequency.
They can be considered as interharmonic distortion,
but are often treated separately because their consequences are different from those of higher frequency components.
. Voltage flicker , or more accurately, voltage fluctuations leading to light flicker , are mathematically
another special case of interharmonic distortion.
The special interest in this type of disturbance is
again due to the consequences. Even very small
fluctuations in the r.m.s. voltage with frequencies
between 1 and 15 Hz lead to light-intensity variation
for which our eyes are very sensitive.
. Noise , are all non-periodic frequency components.
The power system is not a static entity but it changes
all the time, so that strictly applying the above definitions would imply that everything is noise. To distinguish between the different types of distortion is indeed
not always possible. A way of distinguishing would be
by taking the spectrum of the signal over a reasonable
number of cycles, e.g. 50 cycles (1 s). Harmonics and
interharmonics show up as sharp lines in the spectrum
whereas noise is seen as a continuous spectrum. Light
flicker cannot be observed directly from the spectrum,
although the presence of frequency components within
10 Hz of the fundamental component is a good
indication. For the analysis of light flicker, the flickermeter algorithm has been developed.
Fig. 3 shows the spectrum of a current signal containing several types of waveform distortion. The spectrum
was obtained by applying a discrete Fourier transform
to a 20-s window of the measured current to an arc
furnace. The harmonic distortion shows up as the
spectral lines at integer multiples of 50 Hz. The spectral
components close to the spectral lines are due to time
variations in the amplitude of these harmonics. Interharmonic distortion shows up as spectral lines in

Fig. 3. Spectrum of a signal with different types of waveform

distortion. (Current in A, Frequency in Hz.)

between the harmonic lines. In this case there are no

clear interharmonic components present, instead there is
a significant amount of noise, especially below 100 Hz.
Part of this noise is the cause of light flicker. Note that
according to the IEC standard for measurement of
harmonic distortion (IEC 61000-4-7) all spectral content
in between integer harmonics is counted as interharmonic distortion even if the term noise would be more
3.1. Origin of waveform distortion
Harmonic distortion is due to the presence of nonlinear elements in the power system (i.e. either in the
network or in the loads). The main distortion is due to
power-electronic loads like computers, televisions, energy-saving lamps. Such loads can be found in increasing numbers with domestic and commercial customers
leading to an increasing level of distortion in the
network. An example of the non-sinusoidal current
due to a normal computer is shown in Fig. 4. This
waveform is typical for many loads at home and in the
Also adjustable-speed drives and arc furnaces are
famous for the distortion they cause. But these loads are
mainly found with large industrial customers where
mitigation methods are applied to limit the resulting
voltage distortion. Therefore the resulting voltage distortion is mainly determined by small non-linear loads
and not by the large ones, although large non-linear
loads sometimes cause local problems. The daily variation of the harmonic distortion shows clearly the pattern
of domestic load, mainly televisions. This pattern is
visible round the globe as shown in Figs. 5 and 6, where
each figure shows the 5th harmonic and the THD
obtained as averages over 10-min intervals.
Interharmonic distortion is much more related to
industrial loads, so is the noise component of waveform
Capacitor banks are often incorrectly mentioned as a
source of harmonic distortion. They are not a cause of

Fig. 4. Example of voltage at the terminals of a computer (sine wave)

and the resulting non-sinusoidal current.

M.H.J. Bollen / Electric Power Systems Research 66 (2003) 5 /14

harmonic components are obtained by applying a

Fourier transform to the waveforms.
. Frequency domain study : a separate system model is
made for each frequency component included in the
study. Each single-frequency model is relatively
simple as it only needs to be valid for that specific
frequency. The resulting models are the same as used
for fundamental-frequency analysis resulting in complex voltages and currents. The main difference, and
also the main difficulty, is in the choice of the
impedance values. Especially for higher frequency
components different models are needed because
various capacitive currents become significant, but
the calculation methods remain the same. More
details of frequency-domain studies are found in [3]
Fig. 5. Harmonic voltage distortion (5th harmonic and THD)
measured over a 6-day period in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The term harmonic analysis is normally used for the

second method, but the first method will equally result
in a harmonic spectrum. The reason that the second
method is most commonly used is its simplicity: the
same analysis methods can be applied to harmonic
components as to the fundamental frequency. The basic
assumptions behind this method are that the nonlinearity is restricted to a limited number of components
(in most cases loads) and that the current waveform of a
non-linear component is not significantly affected by the
voltage waveform. Harmonic analysis studies for large
transmission systems are discussed in detail in [3].

3.3. Consequences
Fig. 6. Harmonic voltage distortion (5th harmonic and THD)
measured over a 6-day period in Shanghai, China.

harmonic distortion but their resonance with (mainly

transformer) impedances leads to an amplification of the
harmonic currents and voltages generated by non-linear
The harmonic distortion due to rotating machines is
discussed in detail in [2].
3.2. Harmonic analysis
Harmonic analysis aims at predicting the harmonic
distortion at one or more locations in the power
network. Such a study can be done to estimate the
effect of a new non-linear load or of the installation of a
harmonic filter. There are two distinctly different
methods of harmonic analysis.
. Time domain study : the system (i.e. network and load)
are modelled in detail after which a time-domain
study is done resulting in the actual waveforms. The

Harmonic voltage distortion leads to harmonic currents through linear loads. These harmonic currents may
cause extra losses in the loads which in turn requires derating of the load. The effect is especially severe for
lower-order voltage harmonics at the terminals of
rotating machines. Negative-sequence voltages have
the same effect. Rotating machines are designed for a
given maximum amount of voltage unbalance. The
presence of voltage distortion limits the immunity of
the machine for voltage unbalance. The effect of
harmonic distortion in rotation machines is discussed
in detail in [2].
Whereas machines are mainly affected by lower-order
harmonics, capacitor banks are mainly affected by
higher-order harmonics.
Some sensitive electronic loads are negatively affected
by high harmonic voltage distortion. The effect on such
loads is however not so much related to the harmonic
spectrum but to the actual waveform, e.g. notching and
multiple zero-crossings. An indirect effect of harmonic
voltage distortion is that the efficiency of rectifiers
becomes less when the crest factor (the maximum of
the voltage waveform) decreases. Loads also become
more sensitive to voltage dips.


M.H.J. Bollen / Electric Power Systems Research 66 (2003) 5 /14

A high crest factor (harmonic overvoltage) on the

other hand may cause faster ageing of the insulation.
The main effect of harmonic current distortion is
overheating of series components like transformers
and cables. The heating is proportional to the r.m.s.
current; whereas, the transported energy is related to the
fundamental component. For a given active power, the
heating increases with increasing current distortion. The
effect, however, is more severe than would follow from
this reasoning as the resistance of transformers increases
with frequency. The higher order harmonics thus
produce more heating per Ampere than the fundamental
component. Heavily distorted current waveforms require a de-rating of transformers. The effect is also
present for cables and lines, but to a lesser extent.
The rating of power-electronic series components like
UPS and static transfer switch is determined mainly by
the peak value of the current, not so much by its r.m.s.
value. A current with a high crest factor (as is very
common with electronic load) will require a significant
Third harmonic currents lead to a large sum current
through the neutral conductor. This current may cause
overheating if the neutral conductor is designed not to
carry any significant current and is not equipped with
overload protection. Many single-phase loads cause a
large third harmonic current which could lead to neutral
overload. The problem is especially present in lowvoltage installations with large amounts of computers or
energy-saving lighting.

voltage distortion. Reduced emission is seen by many as

the preferred long-term solution of the harmonic
distortion problem. One may however wonder if this is
indeed the cheapest solution. As the number of concrete
problems due to harmonic distortion remains relatively
small, keeping the distortion at its current level or even
allowing a further increase may be a cheaper overall
An important component in addressing harmonic
problems is in defining limits to harmonic voltage and
current distortion. The limits on harmonic voltage
distortion as mentioned in various national and international standards are mainly a formalisation of the
already existing distortion. For harmonic current limits,
IEC and IEEE use two principally different approaches.
The IEC standards set limits to the amount of emission
of individual equipment, whereas the IEEE harmonic
standard limits the emission per customer. Under the
IEEE standard the responsibility lies with the customer
who may decide to install filters instead of buying better
equipment. Under the IEC standards the responsibility
lies with the manufacturers of polluting equipment. The
difference can be traced back to the aim of the
documents: the IEEE standard aimed at regulating the
connection of large industrial customers, whereas the
IEC document mainly aims at small customers that do
not have the means to choose between mitigation

3.4. Mitigation

Most of the research on harmonic waveform distortion has been done at universities, with emphasis on
harmonic analysis studies in large transmission systems.
Further calibration with measurements is required to
test the various network and load models. The availability of a growing amount of monitoring equipment
make such studies feasible.
An important question that remains to be answered is
where the optimal distortion level is. The consequences
of harmonic distortion should be studied, both for
existing distortion levels and for higher levels. The
discussion is ongoing about how much the distortion
level may increase before serious problems occur.
Another direction of research is in improved equipment. Large PWM converters are not only able to
produce a sinusoidal waveform, they are even able to
mitigate the distortion produced by other loads. The
installation of additional control algorithms on equipment with PWM converters (wind turbines, large drives)
may lead to a reduction of harmonic distortion without
much extra costs. The development of these algorithms
may be encouraged by the network operators by setting
up a harmonic-distortion market. Such a market
requires some additional fundamental research in finding adequate market mechanisms. Another develop-

Mitigation is in the harmonic context often seen as

synonym to reduction of harmonic voltage or current
distortion. However the problem can also be mitigated
by improving the immunity of equipment. De-rating of
transformers and motors is a way of mitigating the
harmonic problem, albeit not necessarily the most
economic solution.
A more common way of tackling the harmonic
problem is by installing filters, typically LC-series
connections that shunt the unwanted harmonic current
components back to the load. The harmonic currents
remain high but they do not spread through the system
and do not cause much harmonic voltage distortion.
The disadvantages of these so-called passive filters (high
risk of overload, introduction of new resonances) has
led to the development of so-called active filters where
the current is fully controlled and adjusted to the
existing voltage or current distortion.
Other mitigation methods include improvements in
the network (de-rating of transformers, splitting sensitive and polluting loads) and improvements in the load.
The latter includes a more sinusoidal current waveform
(reduced emission) but also an increased immunity to

3.5. Future research directions

M.H.J. Bollen / Electric Power Systems Research 66 (2003) 5 /14


ment-related research direction is on active harmonic


4. Voltage dips
Voltage dips are short-duration reductions in r.m.s.
voltage caused by short-duration increases of the
current, typically at another location than where the
voltage dip is measured. The most common causes of
overcurrents leading to voltage dips are motor starting,
transformer energising and faults. Also capacitor energising and switching of electronic load lead to shortduration overcurrents, but the duration of the overcurrent is too short to cause a significant reduction in
the r.m.s. voltage. These events are normally not
referred to as voltage dips but as voltage notches or
voltage transients. Voltage dips due to short circuit and
earth faults are the cause of the vast majority of
equipment problems. Most of the recent emphasis on
voltage dips is directed towards these fault-related dips.
An example of a measured voltage dip is shown in
Fig. 7, where the three voltage waveforms are given. A
more common way of presenting a voltage dip is
through the r.m.s. voltages as a function of time. The
r.m.s. voltage is calculated over a window of typically
one cycle duration and updated one or more times per
cycle. Fig. 8 shows the r.m.s. voltage for the dip in Fig.
7; the calculation is updated every sample in this
example. The voltage dip shown is due to a phase-tophase fault in an underground cable that develops into a
three-phase fault within two cycles.
Voltage dips are generally seen as undesired events,
but a more positive viewpoint could equally well see
them as a consequence of the high reliability of the
power supply. Without the wide-spread use of protection equipment any fault would lead to the loss of
supply for a large fraction of the customers. The
protection significantly limits the numbers of customers
that experience a long interruption, in many cases to

Fig. 7. Example of a voltage dip.

Fig. 8. R.m.s. voltages for the voltage dip shown in Fig. 7.

zero. However many customers who would experience

an interruption without protection now experience a
voltage dip. This way of protection has been good
enough for many years, but recently more and more
problems with end-user equipment are reported due to
these voltage dips. Not only has, especially electronic,
equipment become more susceptible to voltage dips,
companies have also become less tolerant of production
4.1. Consequences
As mentioned before, a voltage dip is a reduction in
voltage. This reduction in voltage leads to a reduction in
energy-transfer capability of the system. This has, for
long been, a well-known basis of transient-stability
studies: the undervoltage due to a fault leads to a
reduction of the power transfer from the generators to
the motors; motors slow down, generators speed up.
This phenomenon limits e.g. the fault-clearing time in
transmission systems and also rules the connection of
wind farms to the grid. Motor-starting dips equally
become a concern when they lead to excess loss of speed
for neighbouring motors (or speed gain for generators).
Typical limits for stability concerns in distribution
systems are 70% voltage during 1 s. These events do
not occur very often in the public supply, and in
industrial power systems the stability issues are a
standard part of the design.
Many modern (power)-electronic devices like computers, process-controllers, and adjustable-speed drives
already experience operational problems when the
voltage drop below 85% for 40 ms. These events occur
ten times per year or more, causing a serious concern.
What most sensitive equipment has in common is that
it is connected to the power system through a rectifier
that converts a.c. to d.c. The d.c. voltage is then
converted to the actual application voltage. A voltage
dip on the a.c. side of the rectifier leads very fast to a
drop in d.c. voltage. This in turn causes problems with


M.H.J. Bollen / Electric Power Systems Research 66 (2003) 5 /14

the application voltages. An additional problem is the

large inrush current that occurs when the voltage
recovers after the dip (i.e. upon fault clearing). This
recovery inrush may lead to damage in the rectifier
components. For three-phase rectifiers, also the unbalance of the currents through the rectifier and the ripple
in the d.c. voltage are of concern. An example of the d.c.
bus voltage behind a three-phase diode rectifier is shown
in Fig. 9. The simulated event is a drop in the voltage
between two phases to 50% of its pre-event value. The
effect of voltage dip on adjustable-speed drives is
discussed in more detail in [4].
4.2. Characterisation and indices
To be able to characterise voltage dip events some
kind of processing of the sampled voltage waveforms is
needed. This is defined rather well in the standard
document IEC 61000-4-30, where remaining voltage and
duration are defined as the two main characteristics to
quantify a voltage dip. Both are obtained from the r.m.s.
voltage as a function of time (see Fig. 8). The
characterisation of three-phase measurements remains
a point of discussion. The current practice (using the
worst channel) is not very satisfactory. The characterisation of three-phase measurements is discussed in
more detail in [5].
Having defined the characteristics of a single event, it
becomes possible to describe the performance of a site
and even of a whole network. For processing of event
indices into site and system-indices, there exist two
different schools of thought which for the time being
have shown incompatible.
. The principle dont throw away too much information , typically results in a table with the number of

Fig. 9. Voltage at the d.c. bus of a three-phase adjustable-speed drive

before and during a voltage dip. Solid curve: large capacitor; dashed
curve: small capacitor.

events per year for different remaining voltage and

duration. There is an ongoing discussion about how
to group remaining voltage and duration into bins.
Examples are the Unipede disdip table, IEC 61000-28 and IEEE Std. 493 and 1346.
. The opposite principle keep it simple , results in a
small number of indices, ideally just one index. The
commonly-used SARFI indices belong to this school
as well as several proposals to quantify supply
performance by just one number.
Important in the discussion on voltage-dip indices is
to consider that they can be obtained by measurements
as well as by simulations. Measurement (power quality
monitoring) is a good way of assessing the performance
of a site or system, in the end measurement is the only
exact method. But measurements have limited predictive
value due to the large year-to-year and site-to-site
differences. To predict voltage-dip performance a large
number of monitors are needed for a long period of
time. Stochastic prediction methods are much more
suitable for performance prediction, e.g. for comparing
different mitigation methods.
4.3. Mitigation methods
What has to be mitigated here is the tripping of
equipment due to voltage dips. This can be done in a
number of ways:
. Reducing the number of faults . There are several wellknown methods for this like tree-trimming, animal
guards, and shielding wires, but also replacing overhead lines by underground cables. As most of the
severe dips are due to faults, this will directly affect
the dip frequency.
. Faster fault clearing . This requires improved protection techniques. Much gain can be obtained in
distribution networks, but at transmission level the
fault-clearing time is already very short. Further
improvement at transmission level would require
the development of a new generation of circuit
breakers and relays.
. Improved network design and operation . The network
can be changed such that a fault will not lead to a
severe dip at a certain location. This has been a
common practice in the design of industrial power
systems, but not in the public supply. Possible
options are to remove long overhead feeders from
busses supplying sensitive customers, and connecting
on-site generators at strategic locations. Also the use
of very fast transfer switches can be seen as a
network-based solution.
. Mitigation equipment at the interface . The most
commonly-used method of mitigating voltage dips
is connecting a UPS or a constant-voltage transfor-

M.H.J. Bollen / Electric Power Systems Research 66 (2003) 5 /14

mer between the system and the sensitive load. For

large loads the static series compensator of DVR
(dynamic voltage restorer) is a possible solution.
Power-electronic solutions are discussed in more
detail in [6].
. Improved end-user equipment . Making the equipment
immune against all voltage dips would also solve the
problem, but it is for most equipment not (yet)
feasible. Methods of improving equipment behaviour
will be discussed in more detail in [4].
The ongoing discussion on voltage-dip mitigation
concerns the responsibility sharing between the customer and network: should the solution be sought in the
network or with the customer. In some cases the costs of
mitigation equipment are shared or power quality
contracts define the responsibility. In the long run an
agreement has to be reached between what are normal
dips and what are abnormal dips. For normal dips
end-user equipment is expected to be immune, whereas
abnormal dips should have a small frequency of
occurrence, see Fig. 10.

4.4. Future research

Research on voltage dips includes development-related research on mitigation equipment and improved
end-user equipment. It also includes education-related
research on the relation between voltage-dip frequency
and system design and operation.
Fundamental research is needed on voltage dip
characteristics and indices, especially on methods for
extracting system indices with a limited number of
monitors and on suitable single-index methods. Related
work is needed on the extraction of additional information from voltage-dip recordings. This is one of the
possible applications for signal-processing techniques as
are discussed in [7].


Fundamental research is also needed on stochastic

prediction methods, including a large number of comparisons with monitoring results to find the limitations
of stochastic prediction.
Most of the work on consequences of voltage dips has
been directed towards adjustable-speed drives. With the
increase in embedded (renewable) generation more work
should be done on the effect of voltage dips on
generation, especially on inverter-based interfaces.

5. Conclusions
Power quality is a very wide and dispersed area that
somewhat accidentally became viewed as one subject.
The two examples presented in this paper (harmonics
and voltage dips) show the variety of aspects related to
even these two disturbances. Other disturbances that
would deserve an equal amount of attention are (long
and short) interruptions, transients, and high-frequency
waveform distortion. Note also that flicker is presented
here as a subset of waveform distortion, even though it
is commonly (and more correctly) treated as a separate
For more information on these and other powerquality disturbances, the reader is referred to the
extended literature on power quality. Good overviews
can be found in some of the books [8 /18], but also the
IEC standards [19 /27] and the IEEE standards [28 /34]
on power quality contain useful basic knowledge and
Harmonics, voltage dips and interruptions will become a normal part of power system design and
operation and of the design of end-user equipment.
Transients and high-frequency distortion will require
much more attention before they reach this stage.
The fact that power quality is becoming more mature
does not mean that it will disappear as a subject that
deserves attention from academics. There remain interesting research topics that await being taken up. Some
examples for harmonics and voltage dips are presented
in this paper. Another important task for academics is
to incorporate power quality issues in education.
Spreading knowledge on potential power quality problems (and not only to power engineers) will make it
more likely that future problems will be addressed
before they actually occur.


Fig. 10. Distinction between events that are the responsibility of the
customer and those that are the responsibility of the network operator.

The measurements presented in this paper were

obtained with the help of Christian Roxenius (Goteborg
Energi Nat), Mats Hager (STRI) and Gu Zengti.


M.H.J. Bollen / Electric Power Systems Research 66 (2003) 5 /14

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