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New Directions in Distribution Management

Advanced systems turn ‘event-driven’ binary schemes into hybrid hierarchical controls.

Fortnightly Magazine - February 2011

march in lockstep by integrating both data and function, especially in the area of outage management and system restoration.

Outage analysis (call management, prediction) and crew management are typically the purview of an outage management system (OMS) rather than a DMS. For most North American utilities, when the lights go out, the OMS becomes the focal point of an all-out effort to restore service. From SCADA events, phone calls, AMI last gasp messages and ancillary other sources, the OMS analyzes patterns and predicts outage locations, the enables dispatchers to route the right resources to the appropriate locations. An advanced DMS embellishes the restoration workflow by integrating both OMS and DMS functions, adding real-time measurement and analysis accuracy to enhance outage device prediction capabilities. Putting prediction, real-time network analysis, and crew management tools all together in a single streamlined user experience can substantially improve response and reduce overall outage time.

A self-healing network marks one of the key precepts of a smarter grid. To date, most deployed smart switching deployments have been stand-alone systems, designed to change from one configuration to another in predetermined sequence, given a fault within a particular zone or areas of the system. These schemes are a good first step, but fast but inflexible, and able to account for only some of the operating conditions that could arise.

By contrast, an advanced DMS tool could build on what are essentially binary capabilities, to cover many more configurations and potential switching scenarios in an automated way. As more process-controlled switches are deployed in the distribution system, more options for restoration will become available.

Imagining the Future

Distribution management software systems are growing and improving at an unprecedented pace, but there are many more things on the drawing board. Among the most interesting is the concept of distributed control for distributed renewable resources.

Even as the smart grid communications infrastructure grows, covering more and more of the distribution network, high-bandwidth, low-latency communications probably won’t reach all the areas where distributed resources will want to interconnect with the grid, making centralized control and dispatch impossible. One solution option is simply to allow a fairly rudimentary interconnection scheme, quickly isolating the distributed resource for just about any abnormal condition. But another approach, one that would support the full scope of reliability and economic benefits intended, would be to implement a hybrid, hierarchical control scheme. In this technique, the advanced DMS would operate in both distributed and centralized modes, building up a network of micro-controlled sources with overlapping models. The hybrid hierarchical control system, powered by a very advanced DMS, would afford the local capability to keep distributed resources operating smoothly, with minimal grid impact, while still offering the ability to analyze and optimize the system in a holistic way.

As the DMS gets smarter about the things it can monitor and control, it will also have to get better about the way it enables users to interact with the grid. The ever-increasing list of features and functions of the software itself will be coupled with a massive influx of data from new information