SEPA, collaborators tackle DERMS standards prior to DistribuTECH

SAN ANTONIO–The march to develop industry-agreed standards for Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMS) took a major leap forward Monday as utilities and vendors connected in the effort and offered thoughts on the best path ahead.

The Smart Electric Power Alliance hosted its annual Grid Management Working Group focused on DERMS requirements, drawing nearly 150 participants to discuss the needs for standards which address dangers like cybersecurity, load curves and reserve power flow as well as potential functions such as aggregation and voltage control. The working group met at the Henry G. Gonzalez Convention Center, site of DistribuTECH 2018 which began Tuesday.

“The group was formed to do something that was not done very well in the past,” said Vibhu Kaushik, director of grid modernization efforts at Southern California Edison, one of the utilities driving the push for DERMS standards which can then be adopted by vendors. Kaushik pointed out that SCE is facing 5,000 rooftop solar applications per month in its service territory and may see electric vehicle adoption rise 25-fold to meet clean emission goals over the next two decades.

SEPA got the ball rolling two years ago at DistribuTECH 2016. Since then, distributed energy resources have proliferated as panel costs fell, but industry standards struggled to keep pace.

The “DERMS Terms” movement, as some call it, is working to change that.

“The whole objective for SEPA is driving multiple stakeholders’ collaboration to set the direction and provide clarity around DERMS,” said Sharon Allan, chief innovation officer for SEPA. “That clarity reduces risk for everybody” from ratepayers to utilities and vendors.

SEPA has released a DERMS requirements document for comment among industry participants. Utilities will benefit by being able to acquire systems which are more likely to provide standardized capabilities—such as inverters—while vendors are guided in their own product development efforts.

Mike Ratliff, chief technical officer with Enbala, said that clarity is key. The phrases DERMS creates some confusion industry wide, some thinking it’s all about coordinating solar panels and reserve power or smoothing out the load curve or a new version of demand response.

“I think about new power systems,” Ratliff said of DERMS’ capabilities. A new-level DERMS control would remove the dangers of managing high solar photovoltaic penetration.

Pacific Gas & Electric also has learned lessons on ways to manage distributed energy resources spread out across the grid, said Sameer Kalra, who helps oversee that utility’s technology strategy and innovation efforts.

“We’re looking at near-term non-wires alternatives projects,” Kalra said. “The whole planning is changing in a key way. DERMS is still not available off the shelf.”

That could change in the near future if the continued Grid Management Working Group efforts prove fruitful. SEPA hopes to produce a more detail document in the next year with the ultimate goal of seeing standardized DERMS products showing up the marketplace by 2020 or soon thereafter.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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