How poor power quality is damaging system performance

How poor power quality is damaging system performance

Detect and prevent power quality issues earlier with ABB’s new state-of-the-art M4M network analyzers.

For a long time, the main concern for consumers of electricity was continuity of supply, but this is changing. Advanced technologies such as renewable energy sources, microgrids, electric vehicle chargers and inverters are creating an increase in non-linear loads, which can create challenges for power stability.

While demand is on the up, power quality is wavering, resulting in poor performance of electrical systems, increased utility bills, additional unplanned maintenance and issues with continuity of supply. Other concerns include non-compliance to grid codes and reduced lifetime of equipment.

Defining power quality

Power quality can be evaluated through a group of performance indicators and through standard defined limits that allow electrical equipment to operate as designed, without significant loss of performance or life expectancy. This definition implies the constant and stable supply of electricity throughout the electrical network.

When good power quality is in place, it creates a reliable power supply that is always available, has a pure noise-free sinusoidal wave shape and is always within voltage and frequency tolerances.

Common power quality issues

The most common power quality issues can be divided into long-term and short-term disturbances.

Long-term disturbances such as harmonics, unbalances, under/over voltages, low power factor and flicker, cause equipment failures, malfunctions, overheating and damage of equipment. Short-term disturbances, such as voltage variation and transients, are those with either visible and/or immediate impact such as unscheduled downtime, sudden equipment malfunction or damage and reduced efficiency of electrical equipment.

Common power quality issues
Common power quality issues

Implementing a power quality strategy

Continuous power supply and improved power quality are critical for the digital economy which is increasingly based on the continuous real-time flow of information. For many e-commerce and digital economy-based businesses, power outages are unacceptably expensive and potentially damaging.

In fact, in Europe, it is estimated that power quality problems cost industry and commerce about 10 billion Euros each year. While the cost to address the issue is estimated to be only 5 percent of this figure.1

Businesses looking to address their power quality issues, improve grid reliability, enhance energy efficiency and increase industrial productivity should begin by implementing a power quality strategy. This should comprise the following three key components:

  • A clear goal for the power quality strategy – resolving specific issues that have been identified
  • Selecting the correct meters to capture data and events – using state-of-the-art technology for reliable results
  • Using the right software to visualize and carry out analysis – selecting an expert solutions provider

ABB’s M4M Network Analyzers

To define the best solution to correct or mitigate possible power quality problems, monitoring of power quality KPIs and analyzing the data to fuel strategic decisions is essential.

ABB’s M4M network analyzers are designed to monitor operating conditions of energy-consuming equipment, and detect power quality issues, providing customers with reliable data to solve these issues quickly and efficiently.

The range guarantees complete power quality analysis, measuring single current and voltage harmonics up to the 40th, total harmonic distortion (THD), power factor, voltage unbalances and other relevant KPIs for decision-making. The monitoring equipment then provides snapshots of network conditions, thanks to voltage and current phasors as well as waveforms.

Compliant with main power metering IEC standards, M4M can optimize equipment lifetime, reduce maintenance costs and keep additional penalties and electricity bills to a minimum. For example, using M4M to measure voltage unbalances helps to identify actions that can reduce up to 14 percent of AC motor premature failures2, while the monitoring of harmonic distortion helps to avoid an average of 50 percent of transformers’ loss of life due to thermal stresses produced by harmonic currents.3

ABB’s new state-of-the art M4M range of network analyzers, integrated in System pro M compact® InSite, enables real time data monitoring, historical trend analysis and provide a complete power quality analysis of the electrical system via InSite web dashboard. The complete set of M4M's Power Quality KPIs is available allowing to set automatic actions and alarms, to react promptly to any event on the system.

For more information on the M4M range, click here.

1 Wesam Rohouma, Robert S. Balog, Aaqib Ahmad Peerzada, Miroslav M. Begovic,D-STATCOM for harmonic mitigation in low voltage distribution network with high penetration of nonlinear loads, Renewable Energy,Volume 145,2020,

2 H. Penrose, "The Impact of Voltage Unbalance on Induction Electric Motors," 20 December 2019. [Online]. Available:

3 K. N. D.M. Said, "Effects of harmonics on distribution transformers," in 2008 Australasian Universities Power Engineering Conference, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 2008

4 M4M reference standard IEC 61557-12 - Power metering and monitoring devices (PMD)


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