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IEEE Transactions on Power Apparatus and Systems, Vol. PAS-104, No. 5, May 1985
A. Monticelli

Felix F. Wu
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences
and the Electronics Research Laboratory
University of California, Berkeley CA 94720

A complete theory of network observability is

presented. Starting from a fundamental notion of the observability of a
network, a number of basic facts relating to network observability,
unobservable states, unobservable branches, observable islands,
relevancy of measurements, etc. are derived. Simple and efficient algorithms can be developed based on these basic facts to (i) test network
observability, (ii) identify observable islands and (iii) place measurements for observability.

State estimation processes a set of redundant measurements to
estimate the state of the power system. The result of state estimation
forms the basis for all real-time security analysis functions in a power
control center [1]. There are three types of real-time measurements.
(i) The analog measurements that include bus voltage magnitudes, real
and reactive power injections, and real and reactive power flows. (ii)
The logic measurements which consist of the status of switches and
breakers. (iii) The pseudo-measurements that may include forecasted
bus loads and generations and zero-injections in passive nodes. Analog
and logic measurements are telemetered to the control center. Logic
measurements are used in Topology Processor to determine the system
configuration. The State Estimator uses a set of analog measurements,
along with the system configuration supplied by the topology processor,
network parameters such as line impedances, and perhaps some
pseudo-measurements as its input. If the set of measurements is
sufficient in number an well-distributed geographically, the state estimator will give an estimate of the system state. When there is enough
redundancy in measurements, the state estimator will be able to process
bad data [2].
In the design stage, the following questions concerning the measurement set arise naturally.
(1) Are there sufficient measurements to make state estimation possible?
(2) If not, where additional meters should be placed so that state estimation is possible?
If the set of measurements is sufficient to make state estimation possible, we say the network is observable. Observability depends on the
number of measurements available and their geographic distribution.
The first question raised here is concerned with the test of
observability. The second question is meter or measurement placement
for observability.
Usually a system is designed to be observable for most operating
conditions. Temporary unobservability may still occur due to unanticipated network topology changes or failures in the telecommunication
systems. The following questions emerge naturally in conjunction with
state estimation in system operation.

On leave from Departamento de Engenharia Eletrica, UNICAMP, Campinas, S.

P., Brazil.

84 SMI 581-5
A paper recommended and approved
by the IEEE Power System Engineer-ing Committee ofthe IEEE Power Engineering Society for presentation
at the IEEE/PES 1984 Summer Meeting, Seattle,
Washington, July 15
20, 1984. Manuscript submitted February 2, 1984; made available for printing
June 6, 1984.

(1) Are there enough real-time measurements to make state estimation possible?
(2) If not, which part or parts of the network whose states can still be
estimated with the available measurements?
(3) How to estimate the states of these observable islands?
(4) How to select additional pseudo-measurements to be included in
the measurement set to make state estimation possible?
(5) How to guarantee that the inclusion of the additional pseudomeasurements will not contaminate the result of the state estimation?
The analysis which lead to the answers to these questions may be called
observability analysis. The analysis includes observability test,
identification of observability islands, and measurement plicenient. It
should be performed prior to the state estimation. In practice most of
the time the system is observable. The observability analysis becomes
valuable only in those rare situations when the system becomes unobservable.
In this paper a complete theory of network observability is
developed, which provides a theoretical foundation for the answers to
all the questions raised above. A number of basic facts are derived.
Based on these facts, algorithms can be developed for
testing observability
identification of observable islands
* measurement placement for observability.

The design and testing of the algorithm, including computational

considerations, are presented separately [3]. The algorithms are characterized by

being extremely simple

using subroutines already in a state estimation program
* incurring very little extra computation.


Some algorithms for testing observability based on heuristic

approaches were proposed earlier [4-71. Clerments, Krumpholz, Davis
in a series of papers [8-11] proposed a graph-theoretic foundation for
network observability. The algorithms that have resulted from their
theory are combinatoric. These algorithms seem to be computationally
The organization of this paper is as follows. The state estimation
models are reviewed in Section II. A fundamental definition of network observability is introduced in Section'III. Equivalent statements
of network observability are then derived. Section IV discusses how to
test observability. Section V deals with the questions of how to identify
the observable islands and how to estimate the states of the observable
islands. The measurement placement problem is studied in Section VI.
A mathematical format (theorems, proofs) is adopted for the development of the theory in this paper for the purpose of maintaining rigor
and precision. Physical interpretations of the results are provided
In this section we review the models of standard WLS state estimation [12] and the model-decoupled state estimation [13]. Similar to
Clements et al. [8-11], we use the linearized state estimation model for
the network observability theory.
1. WLS State Estimator
The non-linear equations relating the measurements and the state

vector are
z =

h(x) +

0018-9510/85/0005-1042$01.001985 IEEE


where z is the (mxl) measurement vector, h(-) is the (mxl) vector of
non-linear functions, x is the (2nxl) true state vector, w is the (mxl)
measurement error vector, m is the number of measurements, and n is
the number of buses.
The estimate of the unknown state vector x is designated byx and
is obtained by minimizing the weighted least squares function

J(x) = [z-h(x)] TW[z-h(x)]


where W is a diagonal (mxm) matrix whose elements are the measurement weighting factors.
The condition for optimality is that the gradient of J vanishes at
the optimal solution x i.e.,

H T (x)W[z-h(x)] = 0


{i= 0,k; 0 k =


voltage angle at bus k.

Qkim/ Vk; Qkcm

reactive power flow from bus k to m.

power injection into bus k.
E, = Vk; Vk = voltage magnitude at bus k.

The state vector x is given by

x= (O,V)


where V is is a (nxl) vector whose elements are the bus voltage magnitudes, and 0 is the (nxl) vector whose elements are the bus voltage
angles, including the angular reference (or angular references).
The Jacobian matrix is

where the Jacobian matrix -HPQ (x) is

HpQ (x)



As for computing the estimate x the method that has received

wide acceptance is the iterative method which computes the corrections
Oxk at each iteration by solving eq. (5).

GPQ(Xk)8Xk = HJQ(Xk)W(Z-h(Xk))

Xk +



for k = 0,1,2,... until appropriate convergence is attained. Here the

gain matrix GpQ is

GpQ (Xk) = HJQ (Xk) WHpQ (Xk)


In general, sparsity-oriented LDU decomposition is used in solving eq.

The gain matrix GpQ in (7) can be written as


T W HPQ=-m [xhik

W [ Oh1i

is the ith row of the Jacobian matrix

HpQ, and w, is the

weighting factor associated with measured zi. The above equation suggests that in forming the gain matrix one can process the measurement
one at a time.
2. Decoupling
Equation (1) can be rewritten as


+ wp


zQ = hQ(x) + WQ


Zp =

(mpxl) vector of the "real" measurements (real power

flows, injections, and voltage angles), and zQ is the (mQxl) vector of
the "reactive" measurements (reactive power flows, injections, and voltage magnitudes):

where zp is the

Zp= (T,I,O) (11)

zQ =


Here the components of vectors T, I,1, U, K, and E are respectively:

T,= Pkin' Vk;Pk,, = real power flow from bus k to m.

I= Pk/ Vk;Pk = real power injection into bus k.

HpQ -






Hpg = ahp/aO,Hpv = ahp/8V,HQO = ahQ/IO,


By applying the decoupling principle to the matrix
obtain the decoupled gain matrix









Go =






Here the matrices Wp and WQ contain the weighting factors

corresponding to the measurements zp and zQ, respectively.
Similar to (7) the matrices Go and G v may be formed by processing the measurement one at a time.
3. Linearized (DC) State Estimator
In this subsection we derive a linearized (DC) state estimator that
has the same features as the DC load flow (BO = P)
The same approximations used in obtaining the matrix B' of the
fast-decoupled load flow (or the matrix B of the DC load flow) can be
used to simplify the Jacobian matrix Hpq as well as the gain matrix GO:
a) Flat voltage profile, i.e., V = 1 p.u. and 0 = 0.
b) Line susceptances approximated by l/x, where x is the line reactance.
Let us call G the resulting gain matrix.
The DC state estimator computes the bus voltage angles by solving the equation:

Go0=HPh Wpzp


which basically corresponds to performing the first 0-iteration of the

fast model-decoupled state estimator [131.
The linearized state estimator (17) is equivalent to a linear least
square problem [14, pp. 208-249]. Let us write H = WJ/2Hp0 and
C = Wj/2zp. Then (17) is equivalent to the solution of the following
least square problem: determining a vector 0 that minimizes the sum
of squares of the residual vector.



Equation (17) becomes


Intuitively we call a network observable if any flow in the network

can be observed by some sort of indication in the set of measurements.



The network observability theory we are going to present is based

on the linearized state estimator (17). We may make the same approximations to HQV as well as the gain matrix Gv in the reactive power
miodel to obtained similarly a linearized Q-V state estimator model.
We shall use the linearized state estimator model to develop a
theory of network observability. For ease of presentation, the real
power model is used. The development is very similar for the reactive
power model, however, whenever the difference becomes important, it
will be pointed out. It should also be pointed out here that in the following development, the vector 0 represents a true state vector.
For network observability, we are concerned with the power flows
in the network and the measurements made on the network. Let us
first elaborate on the flows and the measurements. Given is a state
vector 0, the power flow through the branch connecting buses k and m
is equal to i (ok - m). For observability, we will only be concerned


with the fact whether the flow is zero or not, not the actual numerical
value of the flow when it is nonzero. Therefore for simplicity let us set
xi= 1 and call the "flow" to be the same as the angle difference
8i = Ck-Om. Using the (unreduced) network incidence matrix A the
set of "flows," 8, can be written as
8 = ATE

In other words, whenever there is any nonzero flow in the network, at

least one of the measurements should read nonzero. This is equivalent
to saying that a network is observable if, whenever all measurements
are equal to zero implies that all flows are zero. When a network is not
observable, it means that it is possible to have all measurements zero,
yet there still are nonzero flows in the network. In such a case, those
branches having nonzero flows will be called unobservable branches.
These definitions will be made formally below.
Definitions. A network is said to be observable if for all 0 such that
H0= 0, AT0 = 0. Any state 0 for which HO = 0,AT X
. 0, is
called an unobservable state. For an unobservable state 0, let
8 = ATo@, if 87; 0, then we call the corresponding branch an
unobservable branch.

Theorem 1 below follows immediately from the definitions. The

theorem supplies us with two other equivalent statements of observability.

Theorem 1. Assume that there is no voltage measurement, then the

following statements are equivalent.
(i) The network is observable.
(ii) Let H be obtained from H by deleting any column, then H is of
full rank.
(iii) The triangular factorization reduces the gain matrix G = H TH
into the following form:






On the other hand, given the state vector 0, the set of measurements is
written as

0= HO


For the real power model there are two types of measurements
(i) line flow. If measurement i is the line flow from bus k to bus m,




(ii) injection. If measurement i is the injection at bus k, where there

are branches connecting bus k to buses m, n, l, then

(i= 1-hz





where the shaded area corresponds to possibly nonzero elements.

Proof. (i) <=# (ii). Because ATo = 0 if and only if 0 = a 1 where

1 = (1,...1) and a is any real number, we have (i) <=> (a)HO = 0
iff 0 = a 1. Now we show (a) <= (ii).

(a) => (ii). Let H be obtained from H by deleting the k-th column h.
Suppose HO = 0. Let 0 = (-,0). We thus must have 0 = 0, which
says H is of full rank.
fii) => (a). Since the column sum of H is always zero, i.e.,
HI = -h. Thus (HjTjj)-1fjTi= -1. Now suppose HO = 0 or
HO+hOk = 0. Then 0 =-(H HT)-l HT0k = lOk.
(ii) <=# (iii). Let H = (H,h), we have


where S = hm + hn +



T is nonsingular if and only if the triangular factorization

Note that HTreduces it to a triangular matrix.

For the reactive power model there is an additional type of measurement, which is the voltage-magnitude measurement. The
corresponding one in the real power model would be the voltage-angle
measurement. Even though the voltage angle measurement is not
available in real life, it is still helpful to include this in the consideration. Later in the paper we will show that a key result in our theory of
network observability may be interpreted as adding 0-pseudo measurements.

(iii) voltage. If measurement i is the voltage-angle at bus i, then




1) Statement (ii) of Theorem 1 relates the intuitive concept of
observability to the solvability (existence of a unique solution) of
the state estimation problem. As a matter of fact, the solvability
of state estimation has been used as the definition of observability
in the literature. To see the relation, note that H is of full rank if
and only if (HTf) is nonsingular, this is exactly the condition
that is needed for the state estimator (19) to have a unique solution. Thus Theorem 1 implies that a network is observable if and
only if the state estimation problem can be solved with a unique



Statement (iii) of Theorem 1 provides a numerically stable

method for testing observability based on the triangular factorization of the gain matrix. As a matter of fact the triangular
factorization of the gain matrix will also provide the information
about the observable islands as will be shown in the subsequent


When there are voltage measurements, statement (ii) will be

replaced by: H is of full rank.


When the network is not observable, we proceed to find an unobservable state, which is a solution of HO = 0. The solution of HO = 0
is sensitive to the numerical values of the elements of H, as well as the
errors introduced during the solution process [14, pp. 317-318]. This is
highly undesirable. Lemma 1 below provides an alternative to solving

Proof. Let H =

[Hlh2H3] where h2 is a column.

HO = 0.

Lemma 1. HO = 0 if and only if (HTH)O = 0

Proof. (=-) Premultipl, HO = 0 by HT.
(<== ) Premultiply (H H)O = 0 by 0T results in|11011= 0, which
implies HO = 0.
When the given network is not observable, the triangular factorization with complete pivoting reduces G = H TH to the following form
[14, pp. 126-127]:



G = HTH =


h2TH1 h2Th2 h2/H3
H/TH1 H3Th2 H3TH3


The triangular factorization reduces G to



For any arbitrary O,, for example, Ob = (0,1,2,...) T, solving the upper
half of the above equation (27) yields a Oa) then (0a,O,,) is an unobservable state.
An alternative way to obtain the same unobservable state (Oa,Ob)
is (i) replacing the diagonal elements of the lower right matrix by 1's,
and (ii) replacing the corresponding right-hand side of (27) by
(0,1,...) T, (iii) solving the resulting equation




h2TH3 - h2TH1 (HlTH)-'HTH3


The situation here is that we have p = 0. The following claim is first


HIH1l nonsingular and



h2Th2-h2THI(H/TH1)-lHITh2= 0

if and only if


columns of H1 are linearly independent and

h2 = H1a for some vector a.

By substituting h2
Note that (28) is identical to the state estimation equation (19) with
the pseudo-measurements of the voltage angles at buses corresponding
to Ob present and all other measurements set to zero. This important
observation will be used again.
Triangular factorization with complete pivoting involves permutation of rows and columns of G and the corresponding reordering of the
vector 0. Since for the solution of large systems by triangular factorization, the ordering of the matrix is done based on sparsity considerations, it is desirable not to have two different orderings. Theorem 2
below shows that the reordering for complete pivoting above is actually
not necessary for observability test for obtaining an unobservable state.
This result greatly simplifies computation.
Theorem 2. In the triangular factorization of the gain matrix G, if a
zero pivot is encountered, then the remaining row and column are all
zeros, i.e., G is reduced to the form:

H1a into the expression for p we obtain 0.

Suppose the columns of

the matrix

(HI h2)




linearly independent, then




is nonsingular. The determinant of matrix (33) is equal to the

product det(H/THI)det (p). Since (H17) is nonsingular, p #: 0.
We reach a contradiction. Therefore the claim is proved. Using
the above result that p 0 implies h2 Hla, we substitute
h = Hla into (32) and obtain q = 0.

Comment. The implication of Theorem 2 is that for any given ordering
of the gain matrix G whenever a zero pivot is encountered in the
process of triangular factorization, the corresponding 0 belongs to 0b
and it can be assigned an arbitrary value in obtaining an unobservable
state. Or equivalently, one adds a 0-pseduo-measurement for that
node. In other words, the zero pivot in G is replaced by a 1, and the
corresponding right-hand side 0 is replaced by the value assigned to the
0-pseudo-measurement. The triangular factorization may then continue. A network is observable if and only if there is only one zero
pivot, which necessarily happens at the end, whereas when the network
is not observable one encounters more than one zero pivots in the triangular factorization of G.
When the network is not observable, we would like to know
which part or parts of the network whose states can be estimated by
processing the available measurements. These subnetworks will be
called observable islands. Two questions are answered in this section:
(a) How to identify the observable islands.
(b) How to estimate the states of the observable islands.
We start from a given unobservable state 0 obtained from the
solution of GO = 0. Let us arrange 0 so that the components having
identical values are grouped together. For example, suppose there are
three groups of values Oa, HP,0. in 0, we have 0 = (0a,"p,0y) where
O= (Oa,O,a,..Ga)5 etc. Subnetwork a consists of nodes in Ga
together with the branches connecting them. Similarly for subnetworks
,8 and y.
Let us further group together (i) line flow measurements for lines
in the same subnetwork, and (ii) injection measurements for which all
the nodes connected to the injection node belong to the same subnetwork. It can easily be shown that it is impossible to have line flow
measurements for lines connecting different subnetworks, for if this
were true the 0 values for these two components would have to be the
same. Therefore, the remaining measurements are (iii) those injections
for which the nodes connected to it belong to different subnetworks.
According to this grouping the matrix H becomes (rearrange rows): .


Theorem 3 below asserts that as far as the subnetworks a, /3, and

y are concerned, the given unobservable state 0 is observable, hence
the subnetworks are candidates for observable islands. The reaon that
they are merely candidates is because the given 0 is only one unobservable state, there may be other states that make these subnetworks
unobservable. An observability test on each subnetwork is still

Theorem 3. 0a is not an unobservable state for the subnetwork ax with

measurements Ha, Similarly for 0 and 0,.
Proof. Equations (34) and (35) give us:

HaOa = 0 and AaT0a


Subnetworks a,43, and y are candidates for observable islands.

The measurement sets that are relevant at this time in the determinaand H.. Subsets of them will
tion of observable islands are
eventually be used in the state estimation of the observable islands.
Therefore the measurements in Ha,y are irrelevant as far as state estimation of the observable islands is concerned. We shall call these
measurements in Hasy irrelevant measurements. They are discarded for
further analysis of observability.
Theorem 3 suggests an iterative scheme to identify observable
islands. Since each subnetwork a identified in (35) is a candidate for
observable island, we may test its observability with respect to the
measurement set H,. If the answer is yes, we find an observable
island. If not, we proceed to find an unobservable state in subnetwork
a and further decompose it by discarding unobservable branches.
After observable islands are identified, we use the relevant measurements to estimate the states of the observable islands. Note that in
the process of identifying observable islands, we have introduced a set
of 0-pseudo-measurements in (28). A question arises as to whether
these 0-speudo-measurements would affect the final state estimation
results. Theorem 4 below guarantees that they would not.


Theorem 4. Consider the state estimation model

C =HO +r


Suppose that the measurement set consists of the 1-pseudomeasurements O' introduced in (28), and all other measurements equal
to zero. Then the residuals r = 0.



Proof. We can renumber the network nodes and the measurements

such that


Os m-Q+l
The rows of Ha, Hp, and H. correspond to the measurements (i) and
(ii) of subnetworks a, /3, and y respectively, and the rows of Hap,P
correspond to the measurements (iii). Also if we group branches in the
same network together, AT becomes:


regul ar




voltage angle

at other nodes



*a is a solution of





voltage angle at
nodes with 0-pseudo

Accordingly, the gain matrix and the Jacobian matrix can be partitioned

as follows:

where A,, Ap, and A., correspond to the branches in the subnetworks
a, /, and y, respectively, and AaB correspond to the branches connecting different components. In other words, the rows of Aa#v,,
correspond to the set of unobservable branches.


would the additional measurements contaminate the state estimation of the observable islands?
Theorem 5 below can be proved mathematically. Due to space
limitation the proof is omitted here.









where II is the unit matrix of order

tion in (40) we get


Performing Gaussian elimina-



HITHa - HaTHr (HrTHrY)71HrJRa


The estimate is given by

Go = HTC

Introducing (37)-(42) into (43), and inverting G-1, we get:



and from (36)








[ Hr(HrTHr)-IHrTHa + HJIs

rS =0

Now consider

Theorem 5. If a minimal set of additional non-redundant (pseudo)measurements is so selected that they make the network barely observable, then the estimated states of the already observable islands will not
be affected by these pseudo-measurements.
It is clear that the candidates for these additional measurements
are (i) injection pseudo-measurements for which the nodes it is connected to belong to different observable islands, and (ii) line flow
pseudo-measurements for lines connecting different observable islands.
The second type of pseudo-measurements are seldom available. We
shall concentrate on the first type.
This set of pseudo-measurements may be obtained sequentially by
adding a pseudo-measurement from the candidate list one at a time.
The additional pseudo-measurement will make some unobservable
branches observable, thus coalescing observable islands into larger
ones. Computationally this selection process can be accomplished by a
scheme which adds a pseudo-measurement from the candidate list and
then recalculates the observable islands at each iteration until the whole
network becomes one observable island.
A complete theory of network observability is presented. The
major points are summarized below:
* A network is said to be observable if, whenever there is any
nonzero flow in the network, at least one of the measurement
shuld read nonzero. In other words, a network is observable
when, all measurements are zero implies that all flows are zero.
* A network is observable if and only if the state estimation can be
solved with a unique solution.
* An observability test can be performed based on the triangular
factorization of the gain matrix. It goes as follows. In carrying
out triangular factorization of the gain matrix G. whenever a zero
pivot is encountered, we add a 0-pseudo-measurement for the
corresponding node, the effect of that is that the 0 is replaced by a
I in the triangular factor. The network is observable if only one
iero pivot is encountered in the process and not observable if
more than one zero pivots are encountered.
* By setting the 0-pseudo-measurements of the nodes of zero pivots
to different values and all the other measurements to zero, the
solution of the state estimation equations yields an unobservable
state of the system.
* Consider the subnetwork formed by the set of nodes having
identical value in the unobservable state, together with the
branches connecting them. For the measurement set, consider
the line flow measurements for which all the nodes connected to
the injection node belong to the same subnetwork. This subnetwork along with the measurement set is a candidate for an observable island.
Branches between two candidates of observable islands are unobservable branches.
Those injection measurements for which there is an unobservable
branch connected to the injection, are irrelevant as far as observability of the network is concerned and may be discarded for the
purpose of identifying observable islands.
Using the relevant measures and the 0-pseudo-measurements, the
states of the observable islands may be estimated. The 0-pseudomeasurements do not affect the state estimation results on line
If a minimal set of additional non-redundant (pseudo)
measurements is so selected that they make the network barely
observable, then the esitmated states of the already observable
islands will not be affected by these pseudo-measurements.

lkrll = (ir) (rr)


By substituting (42), (46) into (47),


obtainlkrll = 0. Hence r


Given an unobservable network, we would like to know
what is a minimal set of additional measurements whose inclusion
will make the network observable?

The actual design and testing of efficient algorithms based

these results are presented in a companion paper [3].



Research sponsored by the Electric Power Research Institute,
Power System Planning and Operations Program, under contract RP






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F. L. Alvarado (University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI): This work is
important, comprehensive and well presented and is bound to become
an important reference. A few years ago, Fetzer and Anderson [Al]
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[13] A. Monticelli and A. Garcia, "Reliable Bad Data Processing for

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[14] G. W. Stewart, Introduction

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Matrix Computations, Academic

A. Monticelli and F. F. Wu: We thank Prof. Alvarado for his comments.

We do not see much relation between our paper and Ref. [Al]. Ref. [Al]
has two parts in it. The first part is an attempt to derive network observability condition (H full rank) from the observability condition in Linear
System Theory for linear dynamical systems. The derivation in [Al] is
not correct. The steady-state of a dynamical system x = Ax + f is reached when x = 0, which does not imply A = 0, at the starting point in
[Al]. The second part suggests the use of "well-conditioning" of the
gain matrix as the interior for selecting the "best" set of measurements.
The relation between this criterion and the objective of state estimation
is questionable. There are other proposed criteria for measurement placement cited in Refs. [10-15] in the companion paper [3].

Manuscript received December 26, 1984.