G’Day, Mate!  Following Australia’s Lead (Again) with the "World's First" Distributed Energy Resources Registry Master File  - What it means for the US!

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Stuart McCafferty's picture
Lead Architect, eaaS, Siemens Smart Infrastructure CTO

2021 Cleanie Award winner. Siemens Smart Infrastructure CTO Office, technologist, distributed energy expert, researcher, author, and climate change warrior. Genuinely focused on doing good for...

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  • Nov 18, 2020

by Eamonn McCormick & Stuart McCafferty 

DER You Come from the Land Down Under?

Understandably, the Australians have been the global trail blazers for Distributed Energy Resource (DER) adoption and integration into utility operations and markets.  They have lots of sunshine, are believers AND doers when it comes to climate change, and they are pretty damn smart, too.  There are three fundamental federal objectives for the Australian energy industry with the idea of FAIRNESS being the underlying fabric for policymaking:

  1. Reliable, secure and affordable energy supply – ensuring fuel security, increasing and maintaining energy supply, and efficient investments for the Australian energy infrastructure.
  2. Consumers first! – market transparency and security, reducing the cost of electricity, and democratic and fair market opportunities for all.
  3. Meeting international commitments for climate change – adopting and accelerating the use of technology, reduction of carbon emissions, being good global custodians for the future.

These are some pretty simple philosophies, but the Australian government, utilities, markets, and citizens do more than just talk the talk.  There are many, many things we could and should be learning from the chaps Down Under.  They created a Climate Solutions Fund with $3.5B to address global warming and carbon pollution.  They are on track to eliminate a minimum of 57 million tons of emissions in 2020 and provide quarterly reports to show their progress.  They provide educational programs for Australian citizens on climate-related issues.  They have both short-term and long-term government strategies, agencies, and metrics to ensure Australia does (at least) its part to address climate change globally in a transparent and measurable way.

Within the electric power industry, they are consistent with their energy philosophy and in inventing and implementing new technologies and processes to make electric power more efficient, reliable, and clean.  A great example of this is their invention of a DER Registry Master File.

D E R Ain’t Carbon Pollution

Traditional ways of generating and delivering electricity to customers are transitioning to a new paradigm. There are few defined requirements and standards. The spotlight is shifting to the distribution system and Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) are poised to take center stage.

ISO and DSO organizations are challenged with the need for a Master File asset registry for DER resources. This has become a fundamental issue as more and more DER enters distribution networks with little or no visibility by ISO and DSOs about what it is, where it is, or what it does.  In networks with small numbers of DER, this is not a huge problem.  However, DER adoption – especially solar photovoltaic (PV), electric vehicles, and battery energy storage – are accelerating nationwide and globally.  This could really get away from us if we don’t get it sorted out.  Currently, a common standard for a DER Master File registry has not yet been defined in the USA. However, Australia is once again in the lead providing essential grid services and new markets to leverage the incredible benefits of DER integration with the key capability of actually knowing what DER is out there on their grids!  Australia launched the world's first DER registry during the initial burst of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. This innovation is a remarkable achievement and defines a set of key requirements related to a DER registry for the rest of the world to follow.

There are several reasons for maintaining a DER registry, but the primary use cases are to:

  1. Provide grid services to support grid operations
  2. Provide grid services within democratized, localized energy markets

Figure 1:  Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Register

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) DER registry supports solar PV, energy storage, EVs and EV charging infrastructure, wind, hydro, and generators. The data in the registry is gathered to increase the visibility and situational awareness of DER assets across all electricity networks to support a consistent approach of reporting that enables Distribution Network Service Providers (DNSPs) and AEMO to plan, forecast and manage the grid across the National Electricity Market (NEM) more efficiently.  It includes information about the DER location on the grid, type of DER, capacity, and capabilities. 

DERliver Me

The Aussie DER Registry has been in place since December 2019. DNSPs have been collecting DER data since and are working with the AEMO to provide ongoing information.

For all future Ausgrid DER installations, the DER installer will be required to provide updates to the DER registry starting 18 May 2020. Customer installations of new or modified generating systems will be required to provide details of the installed DER equipment directly to the DER Master File registry via the AEMO Installer Portal or a smart device application.

Figure 2:  Ausgrid DER Internconnect and AEMO DER Registry Process

The DERvil Inside – DSO Organizations

The idea of a Distribution System Operator (DSO) has been batted around at ISOs, PUCs, the DOE, and utilities for the past several years.  We developed a DSO whitepaper a couple years ago that describes a spectrum of DSO organizational models ranging from highly centralized transmission market organizations to highly distributed peer-to-peer market organizations.  The six representative models described in that paper are:


Transmission System Operator (TSO) – TSO Only

A highly centralized model where the ISO/TSO is responsible for the DMO and DERM under its jurisdiction, including the DER on the Utility’s distribution networks.


TSO – Hybrid Utility

A highly centralized model where the DMO is managed by the ISO, but the DERM is managed and coordinated by the Utility.


Distribution Node – Utility

A nodal model that uses Locational Marginal Pricing (LMP) at a physical distribution constraint location such as a substation or feeder. The Utility is responsible for both the DMO and DERM.


Distribution Node – Independent Entity

A nodal model that uses LMP at a Physical distribution constraint location, where an independent organization operates the DMO and the DERM on the distribution grid.


Peer-to-Peer (PtP) – Utility

A highly distributed PtP market where the DMO role is owned by the Utility. DER dispatch is performed

automatically (by the customer and third-party traders) based on market activity.


Peer-to-Peer – Independent Entity

A highly distributed PtP market where the DMO is managed by an independent organization and DER dispatch is performed automatically based on market activity.

 Irrespective of the DSO model used all DSOs and ISOs will require a Master File process and this should be implemented based on the 2030.5 discovery service.

 ISOs are not far along in terms of figuring out DSOs but there is a growing consensus that at a minimum managing DSOs will be required at the ISO and DSO levels. It is clear that without market mechanisms ISO and DSO control will not be possible so some aspects of both operations and markets will be needed in the Master File.  Our recent meeting with CIOs of the ISOs showed great interest in decarbonization strategy and the concept of DSOs – especially with the new FERC orders 841 and 2222 providing access to wholesale markets to DER/battery owners.  But, even with this shot across the bow of traditional energy market groupthink, serious conversations have not yet begun.

DERty Requirements Done DERt Cheap

As more and more DER enters the electrical networks, there are some general requirements that should be considered.

  1. Transmission Level Requirements
    • ISOs will need DER Master File data for the region to ensure grid reliability as DER penetration increases
    • If DERs are to participate in transmission wholesale markets, the ISO will also need localized “market data” within the region, such as Locational Marginal Pricing (LMP) history
  2. Distribution Level Requirements
    • DSOs will require DER Master File data in order to facilitate or to run markets at the distribution or retail level. This data will be necessary for dispatching DSO assets for operational grid services and for DER market participation.
    • Current and forecasted DER availability and capacity will be required to set market prices and to support grid services through utility customer programs.
  3. General Non Functional Requirements
    • Trust and audit trails will be an imperative requirement, with the potential of blockchain architectures playing an important role
    • Abstraction of Behind the Meter (BTM) DER assets will dramatically simplify integration with markets and utility grid service operations.  Home and building Energy Management Systems and “universal translators” such as Switchdin droplets will be available to consumers at hardware stores at very reasonable prices.
    • If Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) requirements migrate into the distribution networks as many people believe will happen, providing optimal trust and redundancy for the Master File registry will be necessary.
    • Standardization of communications, auto-discovery of DER assets, and automation of DER registries and grid topologies will be necessary as DER penetration grows to thousands or millions and customers have complete control of installing or removing DERs at will.
    • Auto-discovery of DER and including installers as DER register participants like Australia has done will help keep the Master Files accurate and up-to-date. 
    • Periodic scans of DER assets and strong cyber security use (and artificial intelligence) will be enormously important to look for anomalous behavior, spoofing, and bad actors.

Similar to the existing asset management solutions for more traditional utility grid assets, a similar process for Master File will be required for DER resources. More importantly, due to the colossal number of DER already – with a LOT more on the horizon – as well as the trend towards regulations that encourage DER investments and open markets to DER owners, the manual mechanisms for DER interconnects must be overcome.  This is a no-brainer.  There will need to be elements of “auto discovery” and “auto registration”.  DER assets will need to automatically be added or removed and registered in the Master File.  As mentioned previously, building-level abstractions to BTM DER will become commonplace with EMS solutions that can be bought and installed by your average Joe at the hardware store.  These types of solutions will dramatically simplify a very complicated problem, and the electric power topology we have lived with for the past 100+ years will look completely different by 2030.

There are two key types of Master File data to consider:

  • Static DER Data for operations – used potentially either by ISO or DSO
  • Market Master File data related DER resources participating in the DSO or ISO markets

 Requirement: Master File Must Accommodate Static DER Data for Operations and Market Purposes

More detailed collection of static DER data will be required to support various grid reliability functions. This will need to be collected from entities such as from Transmission & Distribution Service Providers (TDSPs), utilities and other entities such as ESCOs (Energy Services Companies (ESCOs) which are companies in New York that have met the Commission's and utility requirements to provide energy supply for residential electricity or natural gas, and other services in New York.)

Requirement: Mapping of DER Resources to CIM Network Model

DER assets will need to be mapped to the appropriate modeled transmission loads on the ISO Common Information Model (CIM) to support effective reliability studies. The same will be true at the distribution level. DER resources used in DSOs will need to be mapped to a DSO CIM model.

Because processes are typically not in place to map DERs to CIM loads, a mechanism will be required to provide the mapping for all DERs to the appropriate transmission substation for the ISO CIM network model and to the appropriate feeder or distribution level substation for DSOs.

Mapping DERs to CIM Loads at the ISO level and to feeders and substations at the the distribution level — via a process involving the Resource Entity, ESCO, the TDSP and ISO — will be mandatory in the near term for control and settlement of DERs opting to be settled at a wholesale local (nodal) energy price or in the DSO who are settled at a node in the distribution model. A similar process will be required in the DSO market when it comes so DERs can be settled in DSO markets. This is a bigger challenge since DSOs typically have not yet  been created and the regulatory framework does not yet exist.

Requirement: Approach Must Conform to FERC Order 2222

This situation is set to change dramatically, at least at the wholesale level for ISOs, in the next few years following FERC Order 2222 which prohibits retail regulatory authorities from broadly excluding DERs from participating in regional markets. The final rule also respects retail regulators' current ability to prohibit retail customers' demand response from being bid into regional markets by aggregators.

The new rule builds off the DC Circuit Court’s recent ruling on Order 841, in which the court affirmed FERC’s exclusive jurisdiction over wholesale markets and the criteria for participation in them. However, the new rule prohibits regional grid operators from accepting bids from the aggregation of customers of a small utility unless the relevant retail regulatory authority for that utility allows such participation.

Although the FERC decision is not popular with many ISOs and utilities, the final rule will be enacted 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. Within 270 days of the effective date, grid operators must submit to FERC a compliance filing and a plan for timely implementation of the final rule.

 Requirement: DER Master Files Will Support Both ISOs and DSOs

Both ISOs and DSOs will require DER data (availability, capacity, type, grid services capabilities), but at different levels.  For the ISO, a roll-up view of DER at the substation level is probably adequate.  That data would likely come from the DSO at some regular time interval.   The DSO will require much more granular DER data, but it is dramatically simplified if DERs are rolled up (aggregated) at the building level using Building Management Systems (BMS) or Energy Management Systems (EMS) as the point of aggregation.  There are additional advantages to this approach beyond just simplifying the DSO’s interconnect to the BTM DER – it also allows the customer to set his own policies for how his premise manages grid services requests from the DSO or how he interacts with available markets.  This reduces the chances for “customer fatigue” and the customer opting out of the utility’s customer programs when he becomes dissatisfied with the DSO direct dispatch of his DER assets.

The DER Master File data will need to be updated frequently, while also respecting customer’s privacy.  Non-confidential DER data will be used to assist operators, planners, aggregators, and market participants in their decision-making processes.

Metering DER Requirements Affecting Master File

Because ISOs separate loads from resources and because settlements may require a customer source of truth and a DSO source of truth, it may be necessary to have dual metering for DERs. This will result in additional metering requirements.


The need for a common standard for DER Master Files is undeniable.  Although the US has a history of “not invented here”, the Aussies have a pretty good head start on Distributed Energy Resources.  As curious researchers and authors, Eamonn and I often find ourselves looking down under at what the Australians are doing with regards to addressing climate change and integrating DER into their operations and markets.  We have a lot to learn and they seem to have a lot to teach.  I spent a few weeks consulting at an Australian utility in Western Australia in 2019.  It was delightful!  Their ability to innovate, think strategically, and work together to solve really difficult problems is remarkable.  It would be nice to review their DER Master File approach, learn from it, and replicate it as much as possible.  I am sure there are some lessons learned that they might provide that reduces the time we have to spend developing a Master File standard and that improves on what they have already done. 


California ISO DER Final Proposal

California Public Utilities Commission DG Interconnection Rule 21


“A Review of Distributed Energy Resources” for the New York ISO, by DNV GL (

Resources for New York Reforming the Energy Vision (REV)



Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 18, 2020

Great intel, Stu-- thanks for sharing, as always!

The need for a common standard for DER Master Files is undeniable.  Although the US has a history of “not invented here”, the Aussies have a pretty good head start on Distributed Energy Resources

I'm curious if you can hazard a guess for why this history with respect to U.S. energy progress seems to be the case. What is missing about the U.S. environment that's preventing us from more often being the leader in instances like this? 

Stuart McCafferty's picture
Stuart McCafferty on Nov 18, 2020

Hi Matt,

I think in this,case, it is a variety of reasons.  First, the actual need for a registry of DER has not been necessary due to low penetration.  Second, there are potential privacy issues in how DER might be intermingled with customer information.  Third, utilities that are doing interconnects with grid scale DER are managing that in similar ways that they handle other telemetered assets.  Fourth, without the ability to participate in markets, the only rationalization for capturing customer DER information is when those customers participate in utily's customer programs.  And, since all of this registration has been (mostly) done manually, it has been overly tedious work for both the customers and the utilities.

All this is changing, obviously.  DER is fast becoming a viable alternative to traditional assets to deliver a variety of grid services.  But, you can't dispatch DER if you don't know it exists or don't know what it is, where it is, or what services it can provide.

It is likely that there is work going on in this area within the standards setting organizations.  A lot of the information needed is in the IEEE 2030 set of standards.



Matt Acton's picture
Matt Acton on Nov 19, 2020

Hi Matt C,

Having worked in both the US and Australia in this field, I found much of the root of the differences is cultural:

  1. differences between the definition, application and social conformance of legal requirements, regulation, standards, frameworks and governance (e.g. asset, project, quality, compliance, risk management) e.g. rate case reviews via expert testimony in the US compared to independent economic/technical review/advice
  2. origins of the US Investor Owned Utilities vs Australian public utilities being mostly privatised (and the decision-making implications of Australia being a federation/commonwealth, rather than republic, possibly with less lobbying maturity)
  3. partnerships with vendors and investing in trials/pilots with proprietary technologies (possibly due to the commercial drivers of #2 and procurement approaches of #1)
  4. differences in scale, numbers of utilities, customers, vendors and regional interconnects; e.g. the Western Australian utility referenced in the article services a vast, rural, publicly-owned collection of outback microgrids (excluding the NWIS) much more agile to switch from fossil fuels and trial technology

Examples of DER devices requiring registration include (from

  • Rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) units
  • Wind generating units
  • Battery storage
  • Solar farms
  • Hot water systems, pool pumps and air conditioners
  • Smart appliances and smart meters

The DER register is a good example of the cultural difference/acceptance of freedom/liberty/privacy vs conformance; e.g. should there be a register of consumers' equipment behind the meter demarcation point? why does the meter demarcation point not providing the required telemetry information?

The boundaries of personal liberty are being tested/stretched when telemetry and 'emergency' or 'black-start' SCADA control of these DER devices is also being sought after. And then, what if, everybody then is required to (invest and likely taxpayer subsidised) participate in the energy AND carbon markets.... In the US I feel like there would be much more engagement and discussion to the ideas (stalling / resistence / deadlock, like carbon markets in the US).

What's missing in the US? The governance of FERC/NERC hasn't trickled down to Distribution, states/utilities are going alone and there are a lot of vested interests. In Australia, Standards Australia (like IEEE but national) and AEMO (the ISO) have gained momentum providing this leadership in Distribution.

Great question and hope this helps, Matt A


Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Nov 19, 2020

Thanks for your response, Matt-- that's quite informative! It's so interesting how different countries approach the sector as a whole, so it should be no surprise that the end results look quite different in some ways. 

Matt Acton's picture
Matt Acton on Nov 19, 2020

Great article Stu, an informed summary and appreciate the perspective 👍

Stuart McCafferty's picture
Thank Stuart for the Post!
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