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A No Regrets Approach to ADMS

Sandy Simon's picture
VP, T&D Operations BRIDGE Energy Group

Sandy Simon leads BRIDGE’s Transmission and Distribution Operations Business. In this role, she drives the T&D operations solutions, including strategic advisory and planning initiatives for...

  • Member since 2018
  • 5 items added with 5,218 views
  • Sep 24, 2018

Look anywhere today in the world of utility systems and you will see a variety of technology marketed toward the advancement of grid management and control techniques.  If you talk to most utilities, you will likely find a team thinking about an Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS).  Whether it be the technology examination for applicability to the organization, or a full implementation, it is difficult to find a utility where ADMS is not on the tip of their tongues. 

But what is an ADMS?  What makes it “Advanced”?  Why do we need it?  Is there a way to get to “advanced” sooner than later?  In a fast-changing business and technology landscape, how do utilities ensure there are no regrets with the expensive and long-lived technology decisions they are making? 


ADMS is a tool that provides the integration of existing real-time systems and enables visualizations and functions that can streamline, or in some cases, fully-automate portions of grid operations. It enables the management of the burgeoning technologies emerging from distributed energy deployments as well as new functionality.  This new functionality often includes capabilities such as voltage management, fault identification, and location, power flow analysis, and switch order management to name a few.  However, ADMS is but one element of an overall advanced grid management program. 


The utility industry has been transforming itself over the last decade.  Technology advancements, growth of distributed energy resources, and increased customer engagement are driving utilities to new business and operational models.  These changes are forcing utilities to consider alternatives for how they operate the grid and interact with their customers.  Technology advancements and integration of distributed energy resources are creating the need for system replacements and significant process changes.  The way we have traditionally operated the grid, particularly the distribution grid, is not sustainable considering rapid deployment of distributed energy, greater strains on the system and enhanced customer connectivity objectives.  The systems we use, the tools we deploy, the resources and skillsets we have, the processes we use – all of it – must evolve. 

Creating a platform that integrates data across the utility operational spectrum and key customer data enables operators and users of the systems to optimize grid management and customer interactions.  In many cases, functions that have traditionally been manual and very time consuming, become automatic and instantaneous, providing for more reliability, greater efficiency, and higher customer satisfaction.  This is the promise that is propelling ADMS interest.


Implementation of an ADMS platform, when done right, with the proper strategy alignment, planning and implementation, data governance and organizational change management, takes years.  And while such an investment may be appropriate and necessary, that means that those advanced capabilities that we need today will likely not be available to the operators and users of the system until the last phases of the ADMS platform deployment -- typically years away. These functions need information from multiple systems/sources to enable the capabilities, so the core applications and integrations must first be in place before the system functions supporting dependent capabilities can be deployed. 

In addition, each utility’s needs for functionality varies.  There is no one size fits all.  A utility in a region of the country with high penetration of distributed energy has the need for different capabilities (DERMS) than a utility whose main concern is with storm mitigation (Switch Order Management).  Furthermore, even with utilities that have similar capability needs, the characteristics may be different from region to region. As a result, vendor technology roadmaps for advanced capabilities may elongate the timeframe, exacerbating the already significant issue of the time needed by a utility to enable important functionality for running their business. 

There is an alternative….


Utilities that have been modernizing their grid through AMI and distribution automation likely already have the foundation for what is needed to enable advanced functionality, similar to what is provided through an ADMS solution.  These utilities have near real-time information originating from deployed intelligent devices.  Leveraging the information to provide real-time situational awareness and control under unique circumstances is now possible.    

While it is still highly recommended that utilities develop a holistic strategy for advanced grid management and continue their path towards implementation of an ADMS, utilities should consider deploying low cost, quickly-implemented point solutions to obtain those critical operational capabilities they need now. This approach can help utilities shorten the time to value and validate the use cases for the more comprehensive solution on the horizon.  Fail fast; succeed quickly.  Use what you have today to put the “advanced” in grid management to get the functionality needed quickly and take advantage of the benefits of those capabilities. The lessons learned can then be incorporated into the greater advanced grid management strategy and ADMS implementation plans, thus creating a minimal risk of stranded investment, allowing the utility to embrace the functionality from the vendor on their own terms when they’re ready.  Thus, no regrets.


Integrating existing electrical, weather, traffic, gas supply, emergency response, work crew, etc. data into one visualization tool (or into an already existing visualization tool) can significantly enhance situational awareness and enable proactive operations. Smart meter and power-up data integrated with the existing outage management (OMS) and customer service system (CIS) improves outage notification times and make the notifications more reliable.  Predictive analytics can be used to drive decision making and/or automate operations on a normal day and in key stress situations. 

Use an experienced team with deep domain knowledge, to work with your team to define, prioritize and realize your business goals faster all while using your existing tools. By doing so, a utility can leverage their existing investment in sensing technology to convert advanced, real-time data into actionable insight. Existing operational tools are improved with automations and visualizations that enhance operational displays used to monitor system conditions and inform operational decisions.  These tools can be used for real-time contingency analysis, load and power flow analysis, vegetation management, DER locations and impacts, voltage measurement and management, digital twin and knowledge capture, and more.


The utility industry is undergoing a significant transformation. Investments must be made so that our systems and processes can keep up with the need for change. Those investments must be aligned with a strategy, yet flexible as our industry evolves and advances. This parallel path enables the exploration of capabilities by using targeted analytics use cases to help define, inform and drive the capabilities and functionalities most valuable in a technology solution. You reduce your risk, significantly increase the time to value of benefits, make informed decisions as well as influence your technology vendors’ roadmap – achieving advanced capabilities sooner with no regrets for your technology decisions. 


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