Why Esri's Utility Network Model is Better for ADMS

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Tom Helmer's picture
Executive Solution Architect, UDC

Executive Solution Architect for UDC and SAFe® 4 Certified Agilist (SA), Tom has over 25 years of experience designing and integrating utility solutions around GIS and related technologies,...

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  • Jul 25, 2019

This item is part of the GIS in Utilities - Summer 2019 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

The new real-world modeling constructs of structural, connectivity and containment associations and the terminal configurations of the Esri Utility Network electric domain data model allow electric utilities to easily collect and manage the details required to drive the advanced applications being brought to market by many Advance Distribution Management System (ADMS) vendors. The ability to explicitly model the electric connectivity using junction-edge connectivity rules, junction-junction connectivity rules, midspan connectivity rules, and to specify bi-directional energy flow as part of terminal configurations allows electric utilities to use the ArcGIS Utility Network Management extension to model actual electric network configurations above the traditional radial network configuration supported by the Geometric Network model, such as modern day distributed generation/distributed energy resources (DG/DER) multi-source circuits, via the Utility Network model’s subnetwork controller, secondary grid networks, internal substation grids and transmission spot networks. Other new constructs that support a better electric network model are the use of assemblies to model switchgears and transformer banks, containers to model the internals of a substation and downtown network vaults, manholes and moles.

Advanced ADMS application support

The following table lists a subset of the common set of advanced applications provided by UDC’s Smart Grid Reference architecture and that are provided by many of the ADMS vendors today or are enabled by UDC’s Smart Grid Data Repository. These applications previously required a high-fidelity GIS model to drive them or to have work arounds built into the integrations depicted in the reference architecture data flow diagram (DFD), Figure 1 below. The new Esri Utility Network electric data model supports modeling all of the electric network data needed to support these new advanced applications.


Application Functionality

Typical Deployment Grouping

Relative Value to Utility

Volt/Var Optimization (VVO)



Fault Location, Isolation and Service Restoration (FLISR) – Self Healing



Predicted Fault Location



DG/DER Monitoring and Control



System Optimization



OMS Trouble Call/Outage Prediction Functionality



Intelligent Alarming



Switch Order Management (SOM)



DG Connection Impact Assessment & Planning



Reliability Centered Maintenance



Condition Based Maintenance



Predictive Analysis



DG, PQ & Performance Analysis



Load Management with CDM/DR



Load Management



Load Shedding



Supply Restoration



Dispatch Training Simulator



Emergency Planning



Storm Restoration



What are the highest value ADMS applications?

In all the ADMS business cases that I’ve performed over the last ten years, the Net Present Value (NPV) for the first three applications featured above dwarfs the value of the rest. It should be noted that leading ADMS vendors now bring over fifty advanced applications with their offering. Most of the applications are based on an unbalanced load-flow or on a short circuit model of the power system. The Esri Utility Network model makes it much easier for the GIS to collect and maintain the information required to drive these foundational applications.


These ADMS applications offer multiple benefits each for the utility including increased reliability, safety and efficiency and yield the highest NPV overall.

  1. VVO – allows the utility to monitor and inject just enough energy on their feeders as the current load demands. This application brings both real inject energy savings at hundreds of thousands of MWHr/year and social greenhouse gas benefits.
  2. FLISR – allows the utility to automatically detect, locate and isolate a fault and provide service restoration. This reduces the outage duration significantly, eliminates the need to dispatch outage first responders and potentially turns an outage into just a momentary.
  3. Predicted Fault Location – allows the utility to find and clear the fault faster on those circuits not equipped with FLISR automation devices. Now the utility needs to roll an outage first responder, but he is being directed to where the fault has occurred. This saves time to restore customers affected by the fault. It can be isolated manually, and service can be restored while repairs are proceeding.
  4. DG/DER Monitoring and Control – Also known as Microgrid management. This allows the utility to use renewables to potentially lower peak demand it needs to provide for. It allows the utility to better manage baseline units output and can use dispatchable DER to shave peak. It also allows the utility to avoid the construction of express feeders to support the new DG connections.

Enhanced GIS/ADMS integration

Figure 1: UDC High-Level ADMS Integrations data flow diagram - click here for a larger view

As depicted in the DFD, utilities typically require multiple source systems to support all of the ADMS advanced applications shown. The GIS, at minimum, needs to provide the high side of the power transformer in the distribution substation (via the Utility Network model’s container technology) down to the distribution transformers with connectivity by phase and customers connected by phase at the distribution transformers. If the utility wants the switch order management system (SOM) to provide switching orders that include feeder sources, then it will want to provide the leaf node electric transmission substations as well to the ADMS. These can be reentered from the Energy Management System (EMS) or sent as part of the GIS data when using the Utility Network model’s container technology. Typically, the EMS owns these devices and the ADMS will use Inter-control Center Communications Protocol (ICCP) to go through the EMS security to operate the devices owned by the EMS in the leaf node electric transmission substations. If the utility wants to model the load flow on the secondary network, then it needs to add the secondary to the service premise or service location as part of the power system grid in the GIS, which is optimally achieved by the Utility Network for secondary grid networks.

Utility Network and ADMS – migration considerations and benefits

It should be noted that since most of the GIS implementations haven’t collected the data that the GIS Utility Network model supports, utilities should plan on performing both a data migration from their existing GIS along with a field survey to take full advantage of what the Esri Utility Network model offers as well as to build their ADMS power system models with current and accurate information.


The diagram below depicts the Smart Grid functionality that can be realized by a connected model. Capabilities enabled by the Esri Utility Network model are shown within the orange boxes.  

Figure 2: Smart Grid capabilities enabled by the Esri Utility Network model are shown in orange boxes

This diagram has been used to illustrate why it is important to bring in GIS technology even though the existing CAD system and integrations have been providing value to your utility for years. If your utility would like to begin to embrace the new Smart Grid technologies and manage the operations of the new power grid with an ADMS, then you need to invest in a GIS with a connected model. The Esri Utility Network model brings with it new constructs to correctly model transmission, transmission loops, transmission spot networks, substation connectivity, substation grids, primary networks, secondary network grids and the DG/DER multiple sources installed and connected on the modern power system.

Preparing for ADMS and transitioning to Esri's Utility Network model

Esri's Utility Network model uniquely addresses the requirements and enhances capabilities of ADMS strengthening the business case of each for the electric utility. It allows utilities to model and collect the high-fidelity representation of their power systems network and to put in the electrical based analysis on the Utility Network’s electrical subnetworks to check the power system before sending it to the utility’s ADMS.  

Deploying an ADMS is a complex multistage strategic process with requirements unique to your utility. UDC can provide an ADMS readiness assessment for your GIS, asset management systems, mobile workforce management systems, SCADA, protection & control settings management and power systems characteristics management systems. As part of the assessment we help our clients put together field survey plans to collect the information needed by future ADMS applications that don’t exist within the utility’s systems of record (SORs).

UDC is assisting clients transitioning to the Esri Utility Network model. Much of this current work is centered on assessing data quality and completeness and making the data complete in anticipation of ADMS implementation and automated high-fidelity migration to the ArcGIS Utility Network Management extension.

Click to learn more about ADMS Readiness and Implementation Support or contact UDC to arrange a no-obligation, ADMS or Utility Network Readiness Assessment for your utility. 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 26, 2019

Thanks, Tom. Is there a way to quantify the benefits that the Utility Network model brings to the smart grid implementation compared with previous tools?

Tom Helmer's picture
Tom Helmer on Sep 9, 2019

Yes, UDC helps utilities provide benefits of moving from the ArcFM geometric network model to the Utility Network model.  Our business case model quantifies operational performance improvements, energy savings and asset management savings of moving to the Utility Network model and implementing related smart grid technologies such as ADMS, DERMS, DRMS, SA/DA and AMI.

Jon Fairchild's picture
Jon Fairchild on Jul 31, 2019

This a good summary of technical benefits of the Utility Network. Thanks Tom!

Michael Covarrubias's picture
Michael Covarrubias on Oct 17, 2019

In my opinion the new model is trying to adopt more of an IEC CIM standard for the network connectivity which is good rather than a "spatial" approach.  However, I feel that there is a need for a true NMM (Network Model Manager) Application; to me it seems as though the efforts is to make a step towards the NMM functionality.  However, there are many NMM requirements that this path will not address.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 17, 2019

Interesting perspective Michael-- what are some of the NMM requirements that wouldn't be addressed?

Tom Helmer's picture
Thank Tom for the Post!
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