Distribution Automation / Substation Automation, Executive Insight, Generation

Distribution automation 2015-2017 plans for electric utilities

Newton-Evans Research Co.

The Newton-Evans Research Co. recently released key findings from its study of electric utility plans for distribution automation.

The 89-page “North American Distribution Automation Market Assessment and Outlook: 2015-2017” includes coverage of more than 35 distribution automation-related issues.

Progress Being Made With Distribution Automation Programs

North American utilities are making good progress in developing and implementing new distribution automation applications and telecommunications network upgrades. The overall distribution automation market among North American utilities is approaching $1 billion and will continue to grow each year for the foreseeable future.

Distribution Automation Controls Placement

The placement of distribution automation controls for field devices remains mixed. Some see controls being distributed to field locations, but others are placing controls on substation automation platforms, and an even larger group is using control center systems-based approaches centered on SCADA-DMS systems.

Automatic Fault Sensing

Devices that provide information such as hot line status and fault indications are becoming a mainstay in many utility distribution automation programs. Investor-owned utilities and Canadian utilities were more likely to be using automatic fault sensing (AFS) devices than were their counterparts at electric cooperatives or public power utilities. Usage patterns and plans for AFS devices were strongest among the respondent subgroup of very large utilities (those serving more than 500,000 customers). Of the subgroup using AFS devices, about one-third actively use the status of such devices in their distribution automation schemes.

Integration of Communications, Controls for Distributed Generation Into Distribution Automation System Architecture

By year-end 2014, only about 16 percent of utilities indicated some use of distribution automation-related communications/controls while another 14 percent plan to integrate these for distributed generation purposes by year-end 2017. In a related question, well over one-third of the respondents indicated that they have a trial deployment to manage distributed energy resources within the distributed automation system either underway or planned.

More than 30 additional topics are covered in the 2015-2017 Newton-Evans distribution automation report. Seventy-five major and midsize utilities were surveyed and interviewed to gather the information for the report. This group provides a substantial sample, accounting for 20 percent of served customers and 19 percent of primary feeders across North America.

A supplemental North American distribution automation market outlook synopsis for 2015-2020 will be released in March. The outlook supplement will provide distribution automation market outlook information based on type, size and regional location of utilities.

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