A look towards the future: Integrating DERMS and ADMS

As the industry definition for a Distributed Energy Resource Management System evolves, the next big question emerges: Is distributed energy resource management a core capability of an Advanced Distribution Management System or should the two individual systems be integrated? 

By Ravi Pradhan, Contributor

The proliferation of residential and commercial distributed energy resources (DER) is fueled by increased customer pressure for decarbonization and sustainable resources and the declining price of DER. With DER becoming cost competitive with traditional generation resources, many utilities find themselves in a crisis created by the intermittency and the associated voltage changes these new sources cause on secondary voltages driven by significantly penetrated distribution feeders.

Other important challenges are presented as well, including meeting universally high expectations for grid reliability, efficiency, resilience, and customer-focused sustainability. Reliability is key – utilities are always facing growing regulatory and customer pressure to maximize grid efficiency and provide reliable service. By avoiding unplanned outages and reacting quickly and efficiently to disturbances or potential problems, utilities can improve their reliability to satisfy regulatory mandates and thus avoid regulatory penalties.

A Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) provides utilities with a scalable solution to effectively engage customers, to manage and optimize DER, and to automate business processes for DER. It is a software solution for distribution utilities designed to organize and intelligently manage the growing number of grid edge resources being added to the electric grid such as rooftop solar, energy storage and electric vehicles. An Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) combines supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), outage management, fault management, and network analysis functions on a single software platform within a common user environment.

These two distinctly different systems, when functionally integrated, can create a level of grid control that is greater than the sum of its parts.  

So, at what level is the DERMS integrated with an ADMS, or should it be a part of the ADMS? An ADMS solution is designed to enable the user to monitor, control and optimize the secure operation of the electrical distribution network. It efficiently manages day-to-day construction maintenance and repair efforts proactively, and safely guides operators when needed most – during storms and outage-related restoration activities. By making use of applications that model and estimate grid power flow, the ADMS is an essential element of maintaining and improving delivery reliability while reducing complexity and automating related work processes.

By contrast, a DERMS solution offers an intelligent way to manage demand response, decentralized generation, decentralized energy storage, and enabling “virtual power plants.” A traditional view of demand response would be to turn off air conditioners or water heaters to keep from overextending the grid. The DERMS solution is a platform that can enable the needs of a fast response grid with many individual DER acting in concert for an aggregated response, enabling new demand response capabilities.

One example is the ability to automatically bring power factor or voltage up and down in real time using the DERMS system connectivity to grid edge DER. This new capability of fast acting aggregated response on an individual secondary or primary distribution feeder assists in ushering in a new paradigm for managing supply and load. Traditional centralized generation supply requires the generation fleet to always over-generate what is expected to be the load. With decentralized generation deployed close to the load, the load can be managed to match the generation, making the system more efficient and resilient.

Using diverse data such as load forecasts, current electricity prices, and weather forecasts, it is possible to use DERMS for accurate forecasting of expected generation from intermittent renewable energy.

DERMS is therefore a key enabler to deploying distributed generating units, storage systems, and loads, while ensuring optimal operating costs. It plays an important role in meeting environmental requirements for emission reduction and resource depletion, integrating distributed energy resources into the energy markets, and enabling the marketing of available flexibility.

Typical DERMS applications are both reliable and scalable, with the ability to support millions of DER endpoints. It also allows the grouping of DER assets together to maximize value of DER to the grid by selling into energy and/or capacity markets. This helps combine DER of any size into a virtual power plant (VPP). In doing so, the system considers all interconnections between electricity, and cooling energy, gas, and other energy sources.  

With the two solutions performing different functions, how much integration between them should be considered? The efficient, reliable, resilient and sustainable management of a distribution system with high penetrations of DER uses DERMS to manage individual feeders and ADMS to manage the entire distribution grid. Although the DERMS provides localized stability and control, the sum of the managed feeders may not be optimized for the grid overall. This is the job of the ADMS – it enables energy aggregation, so distribution system operators may plan and optimize distributed electricity generation with a unified view. An ADMS with an integrated DERMS will likely become the distribution utility’s next key software platform.

As illustrated in the figure below, the ADMS offers a complete view of the operating network, including distributed energy resources as well as direct control of the DER managed by the utility or indirect control of aggregated DER via DERMS for resources managed by third parties.  


Overcoming the challenges created by decentralized DER paves the way for the integration of more DER. By integrating the DERMS and ADMS, the challenges of this new DER future can be met. The integration of DERMS and ADMS enables complete distribution grid and device visualization, aggregation, forecast and control – from geological, electrical and categorical perspectives.

With this integrated approach, the DERMS provides the ADMS real-time situational data from DER at the edge of the distribution grid. Suggestions to automatically adjust generation or reduce load make it possible for operators to review and act based on load and generation models that are created by the ADMS.

Finally, the integration of ADMS and DERMS is not a prediction; it is here today and is quickly making the goal of load following generation a reality. Shedding loads or adding resources to match generation capabilities with finer and finer granularity is now possible from just one platform, allowing the utility operator the ability to aggregate and control disparate renewable resources in an easily implemented software solution.

Ravi Pradhan is Vice President of Technical Solutions for Siemens Digital Grid. 

Siemens is sponsoring the Digitalizing the Grid Knowledge Hub at DistribuTECH this week. 

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