The Canadian Standards Association has been pursuing adoption of IEC 61000-3-2: Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) – Part 3-2 and 61000-3-12: Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) – Part 3-12 that provide requirements on limiting device harmonic current emissions. These documents, and IEEE 519, provide requirements for limiting the effect of various products on power quality due to the way they process power for their operation. However, why are these documents needed? It is acknowledged that certain excessive levels of harmonics in the electrical system are undesirable but there has been no recent evidence made publically available for review, in Canada, the US or anywhere else, that products connected to utility power have caused these levels to be approached, let alone exceeded. Then what motivation could there be for imposing the restrictions, which could lead to expensive product modifications and testing? If manufacturers alone are forced to apply harmonic emissions mitigation requirements to their products then the utilities would benefit economically from improved power quality and would not need to expend any funds to prevent distortion from reaching their customers. As stated in the United States National Committee – Powerline Harmonics Position Paper, May 19, 1999, USCCEMC 99-01: "Emission control requirements, including guidelines and standards, should strive to minimize the overall cost to society while providing both needed flexibility for product design freedom and the ability for utilities to maintain acceptable electric power quality." In the North American cross-connected electricity grid and closely-linked markets between Canada, the USA and Mexico, it is imperative that unilateral regulatory specifications not impose trade or market barriers nor create inhibition on free market mechanisms. The continued efforts to adopt IEC 61000-3-2 and 61000-3-12 as Canadian National Standards will only impose an unacceptable cost on society by restricting product design thus increasing customer expenses while addressing a problem yet to be documented.
It is great that IEEE has indicated its willingness to enter into discussions about working with other interested parties to develop a harmonized version of the IEC documents with modifications to make the documents more suitable for the North America grid. We will have to take advantage of the opportunity to work with IEEE should a harmonized standard become necessary.