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Modernization Foundation

Near-term vision for advanced distribution management.

Fortnightly Magazine - January 2014
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Grid modernization is transforming the operation and management of electric distribution systems from manual, paper-driven business processes to electronic, computer-assisted decision-making. At the center of this business transformation is the distribution management system (DMS), which provides the needed foundation from which optimal levels of performance can be achieved in an increasingly complex business and operating environment. 

Electric distribution utilities are facing many new challenges that are dramatically increasing the complexity of operating and managing the electric distribution system: Growing customer expectations for service reliability and power quality, pressure to achieve better efficiency and utilization of existing distribution system assets, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by accommodating high penetrations of electric vehicles and distributed generating resources powered by renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc.). Recent so-called “storm of the century” events in the Northeast U.S. and the lengthy power outages and customer hardships that followed have greatly elevated the need to make power delivery systems more resilient to major storm events and to provide a more effective electric utility response during such regional power grid emergencies.

This article provides a near-term (three to five years) vision for the DMS, discusses the potential benefits, and provides recommendations on how to get started on a DMS project. 

DMS in 2016

Figure 1 - DMS Data Acquisition and Control Requirements

The DMS of the near future will bring extensive functionality, starting with real-time data acquisition and control (DAC), a single distribution system model, and intelligent alarm processing for substation, feeder, and customer facilities. The DMS applications will generate and validate safety protection guarantees (SPG) and switching orders; provide integrated outage and distribution management systems to deliver improved outage management; and perform optimal network reconfiguration. Other components of newer distribution management systems include active management of distributed energy resources (DER) for improved distribution system performance, expanded voltage and VAR control, distribution asset management, and interactive training and simulator environments for emergency preparedness drills, as well as what-if interaction and getting new operators well-trained to operate the distribution grid.

The DAC facilities will deliver information about the status, loading and performance of all electric distribution system components that will enable distribution system operators to operate these devices for optimal system performance without compromising workforce and public safety or asset protection. The DMS will seamlessly acquire information in a secure manner on a nearly-real-time basis from a wide variety of sources including dedicated supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), energy management systems (EMS), advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), distribution generators and storage devices, and numerous sensors located throughout the electric distribution system ( see Figure 1 ). Distribution state estimation (DSE) will play a major role in ensuring that information received from the wide variety of sources is consistent and reliable to prevent bad information or missing information from corrupting the results of DMS application software. 

Many of the advanced DMS applications require an accurate three-phase electrical model of the distribution system that represents the exact physical and load characteristics of the distribution grid.

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