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AbstractVoltage Stability Analysis has become more

important as a result of insufficient reactive resources in bulk
transmission systems. Usually the objective of Voltage Stability
Analysis is to identify the weak regions in terms of reactive power
deficiency and determine the critical contingencies and voltage
stability margins for various power transfers within regions. This
paper presents a practical method to perform Voltage Stability
Analysis. A Python tool developed to facilitate contingency
screening and PV analysis is described. This paper also addresses
issues like voltage stability criteria, cumulative errors of available
voltage stability analysis tools, and identification of voltage
instability regions, etc. The experiences gained by applying the
method on voltage stability studies of a large power system are
shared and discussed.

Index Terms Margin, Power Transfer Limit, PV Analysis,
Voltage Collapse, Voltage Stability.

RADITIONALLY, the limiting criterion of power transfer
between regions has been the thermal capability of
transmission elements. Recently, insufficient reactive resources
have led to a re-evaluation of the limiting criteria during power
transfers between regions. While increasing power transfers
under contingency, bus voltage depression in the power-
receiving region could lead to a voltage collapse ending in a
wide-area blackout due to insufficient reactive resources.
Voltage stability is a phenomenon concerning the eventual
collapse of voltage as system loading and/or power transfers
are increased.
The techniques to perform voltage stability analysis fall into
two categories: static and dynamic [1]. The dynamic approach
to voltage stability analysis is to conduct time-domain
simulations. This paper focuses on the static approach, which is
based on power flow solutions. [Static] Voltage Stability
Analysis is performed to identify the weak regions in terms of
reactive power deficiency of the system and determine the
critical contingencies and voltage stability margins for various
power transfers within the power system. The study results
serve to evaluate voltage stability margins and a starting point
for developing possible remedies and alternative operational
practices if necessary.
Power-Voltage (PV) curves and ReactiveVoltage curves
(QV) are widely accepted measures of a networks vulnerability
to voltage instability or collapse. In the past, engineers used to

The authors are with The Electric Reliability Council of Texas, 2705 West
Lake Drive, Taylor, TX 76574 USA (e-mails:,,

compute QV curves (MVAr margin at individual buses) to
identify weak points of the system and measure their relative
margin to instability. But, as described in [2] and [3], QV
curves do not generally reveal the voltage stability of the
system and the true weak spots. PV curves directly reveal the
margin to instability in terms of the relevant and measureable
quantities (MW load, generation or transfer increase) for
system operators and planners. PV studies provide power
transfer limits and lists of critical contingencies ranked in
severity for each power transfer scenario. In a typical PV
study, power transfer between two study zones is increased and
at each step, contingencies are independently applied, followed
by a power flow solution. The transfer level and associated
contingency is flagged as a voltage collapse scenario for those
scenarios where the power-flow does not converge. The
process is repeated for higher power transfer levels until the
base case voltage collapses under no contingency, or the source
zone reaches its maximum specified export generation
Even though the procedure of PV study is relatively simple,
to get accurate voltage stability study results is not as easy as it
appears. When using commercial power system tools to
perform PV analysis, the following issues usually arise:
1) The very large number of possible contingencies that must
be considered in the assessment of voltage stability
makes the study a very time-consuming process;
2) A transfer limit is obtained when the power flow fails to
converge within the specified error tolerance and number
of iterations. Its hard to tell if this limit is a true wide-
area voltage stability limit.
3) Due to the larger number of contingencies, accumulated
errors during the calculation could result in wrong
voltage stability limits.
4) Identification of voltage instability region requires a
significant amount of work;
To handle these issues, a tool was developed to access the
PV engine of a commercial software using the programming
language Python. The functionality of the tool will be
described in the paper. The experiences gained using the tool
during voltage stability analysis are presented and discussed in
This paper is structured as follows: Section II describes the
voltage stability analysis criteria and methodology, Section III
discusses typical issues in a voltage stability study including
the local and wide-area voltage collapse, power flow solution
oscillation, and accumulated calculation error, Section IV
describes the functionality of the voltage stability analysis tool
and Section V presents the conclusions.
Practical Voltage Stability Analysis
Yang Zhang, Member IEEE, Sidharth Rajagopalan, Member IEEE, Jos Conto, Member IEEE
978-1-4244-6551-4/10/$26.00 2010 IEEE
A. [Static] Voltage Stability Analysis
Voltage stability analysis is performed for the following
1) Ensuring that power system meets the required PV
margins imposed by its reliability criteria
Typical voltage stability reliability criteria may require
that voltage stability margin shall be sufficient to maintain
post-transient voltage stability within a defined importing
(Load) area under the following study conditions [6]:
Peak Load conditions, with import to the area
increased by five percent (5%) of the forecasted area
Load under NERC Category A or B contingency test;
Peak Load conditions, with import to the area
increased by two and one half percent (2.5%) of the
forecasted area Load under NERC Category C
contingency test.
NERC category D contingencies need to be evaluated
only for risks and consequences. The voltage stability
margin can be calculated as the percentage margin stated
in terms of the sink load.
2) Identifying voltage stability limits on power transfers into
selected load centers
For economic or market requirements, the user will
identify the maximum level of power that can be
transferred across a network from a sending/source to a
receiving/sink area or system. Limits are usually
identified for both normal and contingency conditions
[7]. As power transfers are increased across a network,
thermal limits will be reached when the thermal loading
of network elements is exceeded. Similarly, a voltage
limit will be reached when the PV margin to the collapse
point is less than the margin imposed by the reliability
As a result of the growing load in major cities and with
generating units being shut-down due to pollution or
economics, voltage stability could become the limiting
factor in regions with large load centers. As an example
of this trend, the map in Fig. 1 illustrates the balance of
load and generation within each county in the ERCOT
region for the summer of 2008. A county with more
generation than load will export generation to other
counties; comparatively, a county with more load than
generation will import generation from other counties.
This map clearly shows that the Dallas/Fort Worth area,
the Houston area, and the Austin/Round Rock area are
import zones and dependent on transmission to serve
their load [5].
3) Identifying weak regions in the system and determining
critical contingencies with respect to voltage stability
Another purpose of voltage stability analysis is to
screen the entire system and identify disturbances that
may have the potential to cause a major system blackout
due to voltage collapse or are the most severe
contingencies that limit the transfer of power into
selected load centers. The weak regions in terms of static
voltage stability are also identified in this study.
B. Practical Methodology of Voltage Stability Analysis
1) Voltage Stability Analysis Tools
To improve the efficiency and accuracy of PV
studies, a python-based tool was developed to access
the PV analysis engine of a commercial power system
software. The tool is described in detail in Section IV.
2) Data and Models
Summer peak conditions model a stressed system
due to the increased loading and generating units
dispatched at maximum capability with high reactive
For planning studies, the control of tap changing
transformers and switchable shunts are enabled in pre
and post-contingency solutions. For operational
studies, those controls will be enabled in pre-
contingency but remain fixed in post-contingency. It is
recommended to model the load at each bus as a
combination of voltage dependent components. Each
load could be split into resistive, small motor, large
motor and discharge lighting components based on the
load classification and load composition data [1], [10].
3) Study Procedure
When performing a PV study, a load center is
defined as the sink area and the rest of the power
system is defined as the source area. This direction of
the transfer defines the power transfer path. Power
transfer is increased along the power transfer path and
at each step contingencies are independently applied
followed by a power flow solution. The process is
repeated for higher power transfer levels until the base
case voltage collapses under no contingency, or the

Fig. 1. Balance of load and generation in the ERCOT region, 2008.
source area reaches its maximum specified export
generation capacity.
Voltage violations and branch overloads are
monitored, and while they do impose operational limits
on the study network, they may not affect the voltage
collapse point. Additional investigation may be
required when voltages below 0.80 per unit (p.u.) are
found, because such under-voltage levels could trigger
the stalling of motor loads, leading to dynamic voltage
collapse scenarios. Typically, power flows of interfaces
will be monitored to quantify the power transfer levels
for operational purposes.
4) Contingency Sets
In actual systems, contingencies at medium-voltage
transmission levels typically result in more localized
voltage issues rather than a system wide voltage
collapse. These contingencies are included in the
screening process to satisfy NERC transmission
planning (TPL) standards [4] and assess any identified
adverse impacts. For each power transfer path defined
in the study, contingencies are screened in NERC
categories as shown in Table I.
For a power grid consisting of 138kV (medium-
voltage) and 345kV (high-voltage) transmission lines
the contingency sets will include outages of all
generating units and transmission elements at 138kV
and above.
NERC category C contingencies involving two
individual elements allow manual system adjustments
to be performed prior to the loss of the second element,
but such adjustments are not modeled in the study
process presented in this paper. It is assumed that by
combining the most severe transmission element
contingency or generator outage with another
transmission element or generator outage, the resulting
set of contingencies would either include or be more
severe than the equivalent contingency with manual
system adjustments. Another contingency set is formed
by combining the most severe line with a double circuit
contingency. Other combinations of network elements
are tested depending on the need to assess their impact
on the power system, like combination of nearby
generating units, all units of a combined cycle plant,
5) Study Limitations
One limitation of a PV study is the generation
dispatch and load composition uncertainty. There is no
guarantee that the particular generation dispatch and/or
load composition being used is an accurate
representation of the region under study or the most
severe to the system. Voltage collapse events may not
be discovered when generation output is modeled with
more reactive production and/or reserve than would
actually occur.
Depending on the composition of load types, low
bus voltages may trigger motor load stalling conditions
leading to dynamic fast voltage collapse. Such
conditions require full time-domain simulations and
dynamic modeling for study and as such are not in the
scope of this paper.
The transfer limits obtained by a PV study are based
exclusively on PV voltage stability analysis. Thermal
and/or dynamic stability limits may be more restrictive.
A. Local and Wide-Area Voltage Collapse
A localized voltage collapse only involves a small part
of the system. Local voltage collapses are meaningful for
identifying weak regions of the system in terms of voltage
stability. Possible remedies and alternative operational
practices can be developed for those regions if necessary.
From a perspective of grid expansion, wide-area voltage
collapses are the main concern. The transfer limit obtained
at a local voltage collapse point doesnt represent the real
transfer capability of the transmission system. Usually, a
larger voltage stability limit will be obtained simply by
isolating the small part of the system where local voltage
collapse happens.
When performing PV studies, the calculation will stop
for both local and system wide voltage collapse, with no
additional information on which one is which. In order to
differentiate between the two, modal analysis becomes
necessary. After the voltage stability limit is determined,
the location of instability can be identified by modal
analysis at the stability limit point. Modal analysis
computes the eigenvalues and eigenvectors of the power
flow Jacobian matrix [1]. For voltage stability
assessments, P and V can be assumed decoupled and the


Contingencies Definitions
A No contingencies All facilities in service
single branch
All single 345kV and 138kV
lines/transformers, including
breaker-to-breaker and multiple
section lines
single generator
double generators Outage of two generators
1 branch + 1
Outage of one line/transformer and a
double branches Outage of two lines/transformers
multiple branches
Double-circuit with common
supporting structures
bus outage
Contingency set includes the loss of
an entire voltage level at a substation
combined cycle
All generators in a combined cycle
1 branch + 2
Simultaneous outage of two
generators and a line/transformer.
multiple branches +
1 generator
Simultaneous outage of a generator
and multiple branches
multiple branches +
2 generators
Simultaneous outage of two
generators and multiple branches

Jacobian is reduced to a V-Q matrix. At a stable operating
point, the eigenvalues are negative and beyond the
stability limit the eigenvalues become positive. The
eigenvector associated with the eigenvalue provides a
measure of the participation of buses in the corresponding
mode of instability. Buses that contribute more to the
cause of instability will have higher participation factors
[9]. The grouping of these buses represents the weak
regions in term of voltage stability. In some cases, the
buses that have significant participation in the critical
mode are restricted to a small region, indicating that
voltage instability is local and confined to these buses. If
many buses from several areas in the system have a high
participation in the critical mode, it indicates that the
instability is possibly system-wide.
Modal analysis is performed at the stability limit, which
is the nose point of the PV curve, different contingencies
having different PV curves. The part of the system that
becomes unstable at the nose of the PV curve would also
be different for each contingency. Modal analysis at the
nose of each PV curve will indicate which part of the
system becomes unstable for each contingency and each
Most commercial PV tools do not provide an option to
perform modal analysis. An equivalent method to identify
the weak region can be achieved by solving a power flow
at the nose point of the PV curve. To do this, the transfer
and the contingency should be applied to the base case
first. Then using the same power flow calculation and
control parameters as used in PV study, the power flow is
run again. After solution of the power flow, the buses
seeing the greatest sag in voltage are where the collapse
occurs. Likely, voltage collapse occurs when the bus
voltage magnitudes of the bulk system go below 0.8 p.u.
In many cases the weak buses for voltage stability are
not necessarily the ones with lowest voltage [11]. The PV
studies of a large interconnected system that formed the
basis of this paper show that for most cases, the buses with
most participation factors in the critical mode are identical
to those with lowest voltages in the power flow solution at
the nose point. Table II shows the results of Modal
Analysis by a commercial software and power flow
solution at PV curve nose point after using the method
described here. The calculations are performed for the
same contingency and similar stability limits. Buses
having participation factors larger than 0.01, are listed in
the table. Voltages of buses with participation factors less
than 0.01 are all larger than 0.95 (p.u.), which are not
listed in Table II.
B. Convergence of Power Flow Solution
Voltage collapse is said to be reached when the power
flow fails to converge to the specified error tolerance
within a set number of iterations. Mathematically a non-
convergent solution is a set of equations with no numerical
solution, a singularity. Note that non-convergence could
be the result of numerical instability due to cumulative
error or oscillatory control actions. For purposes of this
paper, only solutions that diverge are identified as a
voltage collapse outcome; other non-convergent solutions
were investigated to ensure that voltage stability limits are
determined only by truly divergent scenarios.
The most common cause for non-convergent power
flow solution is oscillatory control action. For example,
the power flow algorithm may keep switching a shunt
capacitor bank or a transformer tap back and forth between
two settings as it hunts for the solution. In this case, the
most effective measure to make power flow converge is to
block the control of these devices. There are two
approaches that can be taken. The first is to block only
those particular devices that were causing the power-flow
engine to oscillate between two states. The second
approach is to block the controls for all switching devices
on the system. The second approach is simple but usually
gives smaller stability limits than the first.
C. Cumulative Error
One interesting observation made by the authors
regarding PV studies is that the PV limits for a long
contingency list are sometimes different from those for a
shorter one. A voltage stability study is run for several
thousand contingencies and the results are ranked in terms
of voltage stability margins. Then, the study is run again
for selected contingencies at the top of the ranking list. It
is found that the voltage stability limits obtained in the
second run are often different from those in the first run. In
many cases, larger voltage stability limits are obtained
when performing the study for a short contingency list.
This observation has been made when working with two
different commercial tools.
One possible reason for this is the accumulation of error
during the calculation. When performing the study, instead
of reloading the original case into the memory for each
contingency, these tools load the base case only once at
the beginning of the study with the purpose of saving run
time. For each contingency, these tools apply changes to
the base case during the run and later undo those changes


Participation factors
Modal Analysis
Voltage (p.u.)
power flow solution
43201 1.00000 0.7017224
43202 0.99996 0.7017224
42670 0.99836 0.7020667
43520 0.98637 0.7025535
43290 0.97438 0.707127
42953 0.97286 0.7066137
42952 0.97279 0.7066163
42950 0.97275 0.7066184
42951 0.97274 0.7066299
42861 0.97086 0.7091305
43521 0.96982 0.7073421
43400 0.96955 0.706746
42800 0.46810 0.7770641
42061 0.28823 0.8166956

and solve the new approximation of the base case in
preparation for the next contingency. But obviously, there
is a cumulative error in this process as the original case is
not fully recovered. When running studies for a large
contingency set, the cumulative error is enough to make
the power flow solution diverge earlier or later than with
the base case and return a wrong voltage stability limit,
which is usually smaller that the real limit.
The solution to this problem is to have a second run for
those contingencies that give worst stability limits if the
first run is performed for a long contingency list. The other
choice is to split the long contingency list into several
short lists and run studies for each of them separately.
Voltage stability assessment is a time-consuming process
and requires a lot of expertise for the following reasons:
The number of possible contingencies that must be
considered in the assessment of voltage stability of the
system is very large. To perform the study for the whole
ERCOT system for instance, the total number of
contingencies is usually larger than 10 thousand. Also, if
there are several scenarios to be assessed, the study
needs to be repeated for each of them.
Identification of the location of instability is also very
To eliminate the effects of cumulative errors, the study
has to be repeated for those contingencies with worst
voltage stability margins.
Voltage collapse is reached when the load flow fails to
converge within the specified error tolerance and
number of iterations. Non-convergence could be the
result of numerical instability due to cumulative error or
oscillatory control actions. It is a time-consuming
process to investigate non-convergent solutions to
ensure that voltage stability limits are determined only
by truly divergent scenarios.
Due to the above issues, a full voltage stability assessment
can take more than a month for each scenario. In order to
improve the efficiency of the study, a tool was developed by
the authors in the Python language to automate the whole PV
process by controlling the PSS

E PV analysis engine to
perform the calculation. The tool consists of two parts. The
first part of the tool is a contingency maker, which prepares
contingency lists for the voltage stability or other planning
studies. The second part performs PV analysis.
The functionality of the contingency preparation tool is
shown in Fig. 2. The tool has the following functions:
Create and rank single branch contingencies within user
specified area and voltage range;
Create and rank single generator contingencies within
user specified area and capacity range;
Combine two single-event contingencies together to
create more severe NERC category C and D
contingencies, when the distance of separation is less
than a user specified number of buses;
Create combinations of the more severe contingencies
based on the previously calculated test margins. These
test margins will be more relaxed than the system PV
margin since the intention is to discover worst-impact
contingencies. Contingencies with margins less than the
system reliability criteria would be reported directly as
critical ones. Contingencies with margins less than a test
margin (for example, 20% instead of 5% for Category B
and 10% instead of 2.5% for Category C) are used to
create combination sets;
Filter contingencies for a specified region, area or zone,
including a voltage range;
Group all types of contingencies into NERC category B,
C and D and create contingency lists for each
contingency type and/or NERC category.
The second part of the tool performs PV analysis for
contingencies created by the contingency maker. The

Fig. 3. Overview of the voltage stability analysis tool.

Fig. 2. Overview of the tool of contingency maker.
functionality of the tool is shown in Fig. 3. The tool has the
following functions:
Run a PV study for contingencies provided by the user
or created by the contingency maker tool;
Eliminate cumulative error effects by re-running the PV
study for contingencies with worst voltage stability
margins, as set by the user;
Identify the scope of voltage instability regions by
scaling the base case to the point of collapse and solving
the power flow equations;
Calculate voltage stability margins for the power sink
Create expanded PV study reports in a user friendly
Create separated contingency lists based on their
severity in terms of voltage stability margins.
Both tools can run independently. On the other hand, they
also provide interfaces for each other so that they can run in an
interactive way. Fig. 4 shows the flowchart of a typical run of
voltage stability. The procedure includes the following steps:
1) Load the case/data into memory; Setup the scenario for
study with user specified parameters;
2) Load contingency lists; Call the tool of contingency maker
to create and rank NERC Category B contingencies for the
study area; filter contingencies for study region with pre-
defined criteria or use list of contingencies provided by the
user; If needed, make contingency combinations;
3) Call the PV analysis tool to calculate voltage stability
limits and calculate voltage stability margins; Run power
flow near the nose point of the PV curve to identify
voltage instability regions;
4) Run PV analysis for contingencies with worst system PV
margins to eliminate cumulative error effects;
5) Calculate voltage stability margins and create study
6) If there are more contingency lists to study, go to step 2;
otherwise, continue to the next step;
7) If there is more scenario to study, go to step 1; otherwise,
The voltage stability analysis tool greatly improves the
efficiency of the study. PV studies of a large interconnection
system that may take more than a month per scenario now take
less than two weeks to finish with the aid of this tool.
The practical Voltage Stability Analysis methodology
presented here identifies the weak regions in terms of reactive
deficiency and identifies the critical contingencies and voltage
stability margins. A Python tool developed to facilitate
contingency screening and PV analysis is described. The paper
also provides practical advice to address issues like the
identification of voltage instability regions, cumulative errors
of available voltage stability analysis tools, and power flow
convergence, etc. The following conclusions can be drawn:
Identification of the voltage instability regions is
important to identify wide-area voltage collapses;
Power flow non-convergence caused by cumulative
error or oscillatory control actions gives false voltage
stability limits. Therefore, only solutions that diverge
should be identified as a voltage collapse outcome. Non-
convergent solutions should be investigated to ensure
that voltage stability limits are determined only by truly
divergent scenarios;
When running studies for a large number of
contingencies, the cumulative error often force
premature divergence of the power flow and gives a
wrong voltage stability limit. Running the study with a
short contingency list is suggested to ensure a high level
of accuracy.

Fig. 4. Flowchart of voltage stability study.

Load case, set scenario
Load contingency lists; call contingency
maker to filter/screen contingencies; Make
contingency combinations if needed.
Call PV analysis tool to calculate voltage
stability limits; Identify instability regions
Run PV analysis for contingencies with worst
PV margins to eliminate cumulative errors
Calculate voltage stability margins
and create study result reports
Voltage stability study is a time-consuming procedure.
A tool that can create/screen contingencies and
automate the study saves lots of time. As demonstrated
by our experiences, the voltage stability analysis tool
developed improves the study efficiency greatly.
[1] P. Kundur, Power System Stability and Control, McGraw-Hill, 1994
[2] B. Gao, G.K. Morison, and P. Kundur, Towards the development of a
systematic approach for voltage stability assessment of large-scale power
systems, IEEE Trans. on Power Syst., vol. 11, pp. 13141324, August
[3] G.K. Morison, B. Gao, and P. Kundur, Voltage stability analysis using
static and dynamic approaches, IEEE Trans. on Power Syst., vol. 8, pp.
11591171, August 1993.
[4] NERC, North American Electric Reliability Corporation [Online].
[5] ERCOT, 2008 Electric System Constraints and Needs Report. Available:
[6] ERCOT, Operating Guides Section 5: Planning [Online]. Available:
[7] PSS/E 32.0 Program Operation Manual, Siemens Energy, Inc.
Schenectady, NY, 2009.
[8] VSAT Version 8.0 Installation Guide and Users manual, PowerTech
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System PHASE 1 (2002 Conditions), Dec. 2002.

Yang Zhang (M2008) received the BSEE
degree from North China Electric Power
University in 1997, the M.S. degree from China
Electric Power Research Institute (CEPRI) in
2001 and the Ph.D. from Washington state
university in 2007. He worked with CEPRI from
2001 to 2004 on projects including EMS and
Market Management Systems. He is currently
working with Electric Reliability Council of
Texas (ERCOT) as a planning engineer. His
duties include power system steady-state and
dynamic studies, including contingency analysis,
voltage, small signal, and transient stability studies.
Sidharth Rajagopalan (SM08, M09) received
his BSEE degree from Jawaharlal Nehru
Technological University, Hyderabad, India in
2005 and his MSEE degree from The University
of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas in 2008. He
worked with Telco Construction Equipment
Company Ltd, India from 2005 to 2006 as a
Design Engineer.
Mr. Rajagopalan is currently working with the
Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) as
a Planning Engineer. His duties at ERCOT
include power system steady-state and transient security assessment including
voltage, small-signal and transient stability studies and the testing and
validation of power system dynamic models.

Jos Conto received his BSEE from the
University of Engineers, Lima, Peru in 1981 and
his MSEE from University of Tokyo, Tokyo,
Japan in 1985. He stayed with CRIEPI, Japan for
one year.
Mr. Conto worked for Electric Research &
Management (State College, PA) on several
electrical engineering projects including
photovoltaic systems, EMF, solar storm
monitoring system, and for the Tokyo Electric
Power in Washington DC on utility-scale technology applications before
joining the System Planning Department at the Electric Reliability Council of
Texas in July 2000.
At ERCOT as a Supervisor of the Reliability Assessment group, Mr. Conto
oversees power system dynamic studies, including voltage and transient
stability studies. Past duties included steady state engineering studies,
generation interconnection studies, etc.
Mr. Conto is an IEEE member. He is fluent in English, Spanish and Japanese.