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Stepping Up to Manage Distribution Grid Model Data

Jim Horstman's picture
Principal Consultant Strateture Solutions

Jim retired from Southern California Edison with nearly 40 years of experience, where he was most recently Manager, Enterprise Architecture. Jim is an IT professional with extensive experience as...

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  • Feb 28, 2019

If you’re not aware of the impact and challenge of integrating distributed energy resources (DER) with the distribution grid, then you may not have been paying attention to recent vendor products and service announcements or industry R&D and publications.  As the distribution grid moves from a radial, load-serving system to a two-way energy exchange, vendors, utilities, and research organizations are stepping up to address the impact including:

DER related vendor offerings

Many vendors presented their DER related solutions, ranging from hardware to software to consulting services, at Distributech. Oracle even set up a scale neighborhood to demonstrate their offerings. The only thing missing was the model train.

DER analytics

An example of the type of modeling and analysis related to DER was discussed in an article which looked at analytics to identify the potential for DER growth (Analyzing The Impact of DER Using GIS). That analysis, in part, utilized information from Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Distributed Energy Resource Interconnection Map (DERIM) another analysis which provides information on current DER penetration and circuit capabilities to support DER in SCE’s service territory.

Extending the distribution grid model

While studies and analysis of the transmission grid are an industry staple, this hasn’t been the case on the distribution-grid side.  DER analytics, such as those above, require a model of the distribution grid with extension into the transmission grid. Utilities are recognizing this need and are starting to extend their existing models although often in an ad hoc fashion. Vendors have also recognized this need and are looking to incorporate extended models into their solutions.

A cohesive view of the grid needed

While DER has increased the need for network analysis for the distribution grid, an increase in network analytics is also occurring in system reliability, asset health, and in the assessment of the criticality of individual assets. All of these depend on a cohesive view of the grid in addition to the current use of distribution network models in outage management (OMS) and distribution management (DMS) applications.

Shortcomings of current practice

While most utilities have a network model for use in their OMS and/or DMS, it is not atypical for there to be multiple models maintained in various departments. Distribution utilities typically have a fragmented approach to managing network model data. The OMS network model will not meet the requirements for system planning because it is lacking required information or a sufficient level of required detail, such as phasing. A special study may start with the OMS model and then extend it for the needs of the study. That model may take on a life of its own and be used for subsequent studies. However, the model may either be not reflective of the current state of the network or redundant updates are made to keep it current. In other cases, an entirely separate model may be maintained using different systems, different naming conventions and different representations to fit an individual need.

As a result, the utility will have a network model management function that is spread across multiple departments with no coordination. This results in redundant processes, inaccuracies in the various models, and an inability to meet the expanding needs for network analysis.

To meet these analysis needs, an intentional implementation of a network model management function that will allow utilities to achieve scalable solutions is required for grid data management.

EPRI’s collaborative Grid Data Model Management (GMDM) project

Recognizing a pressing industry need, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) initiated the Distribution Grid Data Model Management project. The vision of the project is an architecture that serves as a roadmap for utilities and their vendors to implement enterprise-wide electric distribution grid model management.

To accomplish this vision, EPRI is designing a practical reference architecture. This architecture must meet the needs of utilities, so the first step has been a series of intensive deep-dive workshops with utilities to understand their ‘as-is’ network model management functions and what challenges they are facing. As the architecture is developed follow-on deep dives will be held with utilities to assess its applicability in their environment.

Vendors are also being engaged. To that end, EPRI held a vendor focused, with utilities included, meeting prior to DistribuTECH as part of ongoing vendor sessions to ensure applicability of the architecture. The project is supported by a core team of experts with backgrounds in network analysis, outage and distribution management, GIS, information architecture and application of the IEC Common Information Model (CIM).

The GMDM project grew from previous EPRI work in their Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Program on GIS in Distribution and Network Model Management in Transmission. This distribution grid project is leveraging work from the transmission grid effort, which was conducted in collaboration with the IEC CIM Working Group 13 and resulted in extensions to the 61970 standards.

As was done with the Network Model Management in Transmission, any necessary extensions to the CIM standard will be documented and their inclusion into the CIM coordinated with the appropriate working group.

A Business Function Approach

Since processes and technologies employed by utilities will vary, the EPRI project is taking a business function approach to development of the architecture. A partial set of business functions that are involved with grid models are depicted in Figure 1. The major capabilities of the network model management function are also depicted.

Figure 1

Getting Involved

Further information, including a summary video, on EPRI’s Grid Model Data Management project can be found at Grid Model Data Management. To find out how you can participate in the project contact Pat Brown at EPRI (



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Jim Horstman's picture
Thank Jim for the Post!
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