Next Generation Distribution Management Systems

Next-Generation Distribution Management Systems: Challenges in Grid Management

Integrating smart grids is immensely important to make shifting to renewable energy a reality. Not only do these make it a more cost-effective venture, but they also grant the system reliability and stability.

As the popularity of renewable integration increases due to global warming and subsidies, distribution networks become indispensable. Therefore, next-generation distribution management systems, like smart grid DMS and DERMS, are the key to a reliable operation.

The early smart grid systems came with switching functionality and self-healing capabilities. This had a significant impact on the improvement of feeder reliability and network. Technologies like FLISR (Fault location, isolation, and service restoration) and FDIR are implemented using various software and automation.

The Shortcomings of the Existing Distribution Systems

Since Distributed Energy Resources or DERs are non-traditional, there are still many challenges in their implementation. The system is relatively new and requires direct connectivity with the primary circuit for distribution.

Other options can be connecting it behind the meter or granting the distribution operator complete ownership. However, there are some problems that occur during operation, especially during an increased DER penetration.

Voltage Fluctuations

Renewable energy generation has a huge impact on the voltage control of the distribution systems. Since sensitive electrical equipment is involved, voltage fluctuations can reduce their lifespan. Along with the huge upfront cost, this is also a factor that prevents people from choosing renewable energy sources.

Another problem is due to intermittency. For instance, a solar PV generator on a cloudy day would produce less power. Distributors must deal with this intermittent output level and address the feeder fluctuation.

Unless this problem is solved, the issue with poor and inconsistent power quality will persist. Also, this will increase the demand for tap changer voltage regulators.

Manufacturing giant Siemens has incorporated Spectrum Power ADMS software for Romania’s Distributie Energie Oltenia. In addition, they have integrated interfaces, like EnergyIP, the smart meter data management system. This will help the DEOs better monitor and control all voltage levels of the distribution grids.

Reverse Power Flow

RPF or reverse power flow, is one of the significant impacts of the Distributed Generation based on Photovoltaic. This is when there is an excess power generation than the local requirement.

When this happens, power can flow in the opposite direction. If it exceeds the total feeder load, the power will return to the substation, causing a rise in voltage. It is bad for the feeder as high voltage can cause electrical failure and complete shutdown.

Load Masking

The next generation ADMS must address the issue with peak load management. The feeder load measurements available on the substation ADMS are the net loads. In reality, this is the customer load that the DERs supply.

The distribution system should operate radially in an ideal condition, allowing the power to flow from the substation to the load.

If the distributed generators go offline during a fault, the load will increase when power returns. Due to the automatic sectionalizing, it can overload the backup sources.

EV Chargers Causing Localized Overloading

The future of electric vehicles is near, with about 2.6% of global car sales, including EVs. The number is expected to increase up to 125 million by 2030. It may be good for the environment, but the growing popularity of EVs poses a threat to electric grids.

The estimated power load capacity needs to increase exponentially if providers want to cater to this rising demand. With heavy electrical vehicle charging activities taking place, it will put a lot of pressure on the localized equipment.

Imagine a que of EVs at a public charging station without the necessary infrastructure. Therefore, this is an imminent challenge that modern distribution management systems must address.

Difficulty in Coordinating the Protection Systems

Renewable energy resources (RES) are naturally occurring power integrated within the distribution networks. They are classified depending upon the size. So, it can either be a large-scale or a small-scale penetration.

Higher penetration of distributed generators means the chance of a fault occurring will increase. As a result, this can change the coordination of the feeder protection systems. Not only that but also the distribution automation process of the distribution management systems will be affected. This is bad for operation and will cause unwanted malfunctions and power outages.

Poor DER Management

There is still a lot of scope for improvement in the ADMS functionality. Most of the challenges occur due to poor awareness and less sophisticated equipment. However, with higher levels of DER penetration, awareness has been on the rise.

The problem is that most DERs are owned by customers who do not feel the need to supply the utility back. Therefore, these systems are not equipped with remote monitoring and control capabilities.

On the other hand, implementing this on a large scale can be expensive. It is not a viable option for many small-scale DERs.

What’s worse is that ADMS is not yet able to tackle the commercial aspects, like customer registration, verification, and compensation.

Most DER systems do not even follow the standard communication protocols, like DNP3 by SCADA. Instead, they simply support standard protocols designed explicitly for DER monitoring. That is why there is still the need for combining the technical and commercial functions.

The Solution

In the current scenario, Distributed Energy Resources or DERs, are vital for fulfilling the demand response. In addition, the grid resiliency also improves when microgrids are added. It further helps in energy storage and control. That is why there is a need for a more advanced distribution management system.

For instance, New Columbia Solar in Washington D.C. has implemented projects for improvement in commercial operations. It allows the systems to detect early problems and automatically resolve them. As a result, there are fewer occurrences of a power outage.

Using an Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS)

Implementing an Advanced Distribution Management System or ADMS is still under construction, with scopes for improvement. The existing systems incorporate Outage Management System or OMS functionality.

However, a model-driven distribution application is needed for a more robust, powerful, and volt-Var optimization (VVO).

Advanced Distribution Management Systems or ADMS is a software platform that aids in distribution management control and optimization. As a result, the performance of the smart grids improves. That is why utilities nowadays are implementing ADMS even though it costs more.

Customers look for higher reliability and improved quality of energy when they opt for renewable energy sources. Also, there is a major concern regarding data security and resiliency during natural disasters.

A robust distribution management system can address the intermittent nature of renewable energy sources and solve them. Even if their importance is not fully realized today, they hold the immense prospect for the future as technology will keep evolving.

Take the SurvalentONE ADMS platform, for example. It fully complies with the SCADA regulations. The OMS and DMS system is easy to operate thanks to its graphical interface. What’s more, you can build it up from scratch using a Windows-based platform.

There has already been a rise in electric vehicles and photovoltaic systems. These devices require stable grid connectivity for reliable operation. Simultaneously, newly regulated policies make the upfront cost of installation go down, making accommodation easier.

Also, the smart grid distribution management systems of SGDMS optimize electricity bills and allow better communication between energy sources. Therefore, energy providers are left with no choice but to invest in the grid modernization movement.

Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) to the Rescue

Of course, an ADMS is not the only available solution to the problem. The modernization of the grid system has given birth to various systems and services. One such instance is the distributed energy resource management systems or DERMS.

Apart from the Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS), these will also be another choice of advanced applications for enhancing electric utilities.

While ADMS is only available to a handful of providers, the new and emerging DERMS could have a significant role to play. As the impact of Distributed Energy Resources or DERs grows, systems augmented with DERMS will provide better scalability.

Also, ADMS offers situational awareness regarding the grid assets, while DERMS grants more visibility of the grid-edge assets.

With DERMS, providers can monitor DERs from a user-defined level. Smart grids are popular due to their three major features, availability, integrity, and confidentiality. With such high-level objectives, one cannot compromise with distribution management.


The infrastructure has to improve rapidly to optimize and control the next-generation distribution management systems. There is not much time as the world has already entered the era of renewable energy sources.

Without immediate actions, the supply-demand gap will only increase, causing overloading and power outage.

There is no doubt that the distribution grid operating has to become more complex to accommodate all customers. Compared to the existing systems, they also have to become more proactive and responsive towards control and monitoring.

In a rapidly changing environment, where intermittency and bidirectional power flows are a significant concern, reliability lies in the future of these systems.  

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