Voltage Standardization – Still a Confusion

IEC 60038-1983, amended 1994 and 1997 is a directive to standardize voltages of a.c. transmission, distribution and utilization systems and equipment for use in such systems with standard frequencies 50 Hz and 60 Hz having a nominal voltage above 100 V.

The aim of this standard is to consolidate 380V and 415V, 3phase into the 400V nominal voltage. An excerpt from IEC 60038 is shown below:

The nominal voltage of existing 220/380 V and 240/415 V systems shall evolve toward the recommended value of 230/400 V. The transition period should be as short as possible and should not exceed the year 2003. During this period, as a first step, the electricity supply authorities of countries having 220/380 V systems should bring the voltage within the range 230/400 V +6%,-10% and those of countries having 240/415 V systems should bring the voltage within the range 230/400 V +10%, -6%. At the end of the transition period, the tolerance of 230/400 V ±10% should have been achieved; after this the reduction of this range will be considered. All the above considerations apply also to the present 380/660 V value with respect to the recommended value 400/690 V.

Concerning supply voltage range, under normal service conditions, it is recommended that the voltage at the supply terminals should not differ from the nominal voltage of the system by more than ±10%.

For the utilization voltage range, in addition to the voltage variations at the supply terminals, voltage drops may occur within the consumer's installations. For low-voltage installations, this voltage drop is limited to 4%, therefore, the utilization voltage range is +10%, –14%(Note 1). This utilization range should be taken into account by Product Committees.

Note 1 At the end of the transition period, the reduction of this range will be considered.

This transition is making a lot of confusion until now.

The project that I am involved with still uses the 380V nominal voltage. I was informed that the motors were already purchased at 380 V. TECO have manufactured a motors specially for this project. It is alright for TECO to do that as there are more than a thousand motors ordered. That order happened before the GFC and was handled by another consulting company.

Transformers however were rated 415V secondary. Again another old voltage rating non-compliant to current IEC standard. Now, what will be the rating of the switchboard? will it be rated 380V, 415V or 400V?

If strict compliance to IEC is a project requirement, then all electrical equipment to be specified and purchased need to be rated 400V. There will be no problem for the 380V motors as the voltage drop on motor the branch circuits will provide just the right voltage on the motor terminal. Notwithstanding that motors have voltage range ratings.

About the Author

Ver Pangonilo
A Filipino Engineer, Registered Professional Engineer of Queensland (RPEQ) - Australia and Professional Electrical Engineer (PEE) - Philippines with extensive experience in concept select, front-end engineering, HV & LV detail design, construction and commissioning of Hazardous and Non-Hazardous Area electrical installations in water and waste water pipeline and pumping facilities, offshore platforms, hydrocarbon process plants and pipelines including related facilities. Hazardous area classification and design certification (UEENEEM015B, UEENEEM016B, UEENEEM017B).
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