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Distributed Grid Management 101: Managing the DER challenge with ADMS-DERMS integration

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Gary Rackliffe's picture
VP Market Development & innovation, North America Hitachi ABB Power Grids

Gary Rackliffe is Vice President for Market Development and Innovation, North America, leading Hitachi ABB Power Grids' smart grid, grid modernization, digital transformation, and energy...

  • Member since 2004
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  • Apr 24, 2019

As more disruptive and variable distributed energy resources (DERs) are connected and integrated onto the modern grid, it is critical that advanced digital solutions be used in order to manage the challenges posed by increased network complexity and load variability. Over the past decade, widespread renewable energy technology development and new regulatory and policy directives have led to dramatically increasing levels of distributed generation connected to the distribution network. Power distribution networks are being transformed by the connection of DERs like electric vehicles, energy storage and rooftop solar.

This increasing complexity of distribution networks creates challenges for network operators, such as solar and wind variability along with an increased risk of significant loss of generation, system planning challenges, and grid edge connection issues.  Increasing the level of generation supplied through power electronics (such as wind, solar, and battery storage) and retiring coal plants impact the grid inertia from large power plants to stabilize the network.

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This means electric utilities today must manage the grid with more agility and flexibility. In particular, it means they must somehow integrate lots of externally originated asset, market and grid data in a way that is seamless and consistent, because more distributed energy resources are coming quickly. The success of broad DER adoption is dependent on utilities’ ability to monitor and control the assets, link them with SCADA/DMS and other enterprise systems, and interact with market operators.

Solving the problem of not only connecting DERs to the grid but seamlessly integrating them involves implementing Distribution Energy Resources Management Systems (or DERMS), a control system that enables optimized control of the grid and DERs, including capabilities such as Volt/VAR optimization (VVO), power quality management and the coordination of DERs to support operational needs.  It manages a variety of generation sources, especially renewables and energy storage located at the grid edge (such as balancing EV charging with variable generation resources like wind), but it is also an economic tool, such as in the use of a virtual power plant (VPP), where many DERs can be aggregated via DERMS, presented to the grid operator as a single, dispatchable resource, and provide a ROI for DER investment. 

The digital distribution grid has evolved over the past decade from a simple distribution automation system designed for improved efficiency, to a more Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) integrated with a Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS).

An ADMS combines distribution management system functions for control room operations, storm response and outage management, SCADA, distributed energy resource management, and advanced applications such as automated switching and Volt/VAR optimization. A Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) addresses grid operations with DERs including control of smart inverters, volt/var optimization, and protection and control. DERMS also manage the virtual power plant (VPP) functions of registration, forecasting, aggregation, dispatch, and settlement for services provided by DERs for utilities. 

DERMS is an integral part of a good ADMS – but it is just one of the five modules for a distribution system operator to be effective. The other components are outage management (including Fault Location Isolation System Restoration, or FLISR), SCADA, analytics and network applications.  This ADMS creates a common graphical user interface and common data models (such as simulation and case study modes) that provides a common working environment with a seamless workflow for control room staff.

A full-function DERMS is best deployed as an integrated part of an ADMS to leverage the network model and power flow in the ADMS to validate DER dispatch schedules, while achieving the safe, secure and efficient operation of the electric distribution network. This comes as utilities are seeing higher penetration of DERs, more complex distribution network operations, more microgrids and new distribution markets.  DER standards and functionality are being finalized while current DERMS pilot projects inform policy makers.

The most important capability for a DERMS implementation is the system’s ability to interface with distribution management systems and other existing enterprise utility platforms. A truly successful digital transformation means having an integrated ADMS/DERMS platform to support distribution operations and DER needs. Grid operators will have a single view of DER assets that allow them to respond quicker to changes in operating conditions.

These ADMS/DERMS integrated systems provide benefits including grid reliability and performance, network visibility at the grid edge, achieving regulatory targets for renewable generation, reduced capital expenditures on centralized generation, and lower operational costs offered by distributed generation.  ADMS/DERMS integrated systems are already providing utilities, their customers and third-party players the ability to derive value from distributed assets in a number of different use cases. As the technology advances, distributed energy resources will be able to deliver even more.

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Thank Gary for the Post!
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Gary Huffman's picture
Gary Huffman on Apr 30, 2019

Incorporating modern grid control functions vis-a-vis ADMS / DERMS implies a more complex and challenging Control Room Function. That is, the ability of humans to manage and operate the Grid in a safe and reliable way.

A quick look at the current Boeing 737 Max saga provides insights into how the public and regulators regard safety hazards when technology and automation seemingly outpace traditional human capabilities and training and result in public safety concerns.

Maintaining public trust and safeguarding the hard earned reputation for system reliability and safe operations is of paramount importance as we integrate more and more functionality.

While owner-operators maintain the front line responsibility for these challenges it falls to OEMs, technology providers, integrators and consultants to share this burden.

ADMS / DERMS systems are indeed critical to the future integration of DER and to support the Grid of the future. Implementing these technologies in a safe and measured way is a benchmark we all desire to hit...

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