The Grid Guy: 5 Attributes Your ADMS Needs for Grid Modernization

Brad Williams, Vice president, Industry Strategy

When I first coined the term Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMSs) over 15-years ago, it was an emerging technology the utilities industry needed to automate outage restoration and optimize the performance of utility distribution grids from common model and operator UI. However, the evolving business requirements of delivering electricity have led utilities to undertake broader grid modernization projects and ensure their AMDSs meet safety requirements in an environment of expanding customer and societal expectations. As Gartner® noted in a Market Guide for ADMSs, “electricity delivery networks are evolving to support new business requirements.” Basically, distribution utilities need new tools to safely integrate distributed energy resources (DERs) that get added to the grid.

The number of devices and systems being added to the grid is accelerating. In a recent post, I shared interesting reports about the growth of DERs being added to the grid. Soon afterwards, BloomberNEF reinforced this data by noting global investment in energy transition continues to grow.

The challenge distribution utilities face is that their systems must support load flexibility across all their segments to match and schedule them against the intermittent generation of all these new renewables. They must plan today for the impact of electric vehicles (EVs), smart thermostats, and other customer technologies on their grids.

We have seen greater adoption of a platform approach to advanced distribution grid management to answer these challenges and provide extreme scalability for whatever the future may hold. As recently as this summer, FirstEnergy used this approach to go live with its new ADMS across its 10 operating companies to meet the demands of over 6 million customers as part of its grid modernization project. This is, no doubt, the most successful large utility ADMS initiative in the industry in terms of cost, schedule, and functionality!

What does an ADMS need to accomplish this? The Gartner report and what we see with our customers share similar themes as to what characteristics an ADMS needs for grid modernization. They can be described as follows.

5 key ADMS attributes to support distribution grid modernization

1. It needs to act as a digital twin and serve as a nerve center

Electric distribution networks are both aging and evolving to support business requirements on the grid edge. Solar panels, electric vehicle chargers, advanced metering infrastructure, smart inverters, energy storage systems, and the like all must be operated safely and optimized given their operating conditions. To support this, a network model is needed to represent the key distribution infrastructure leveraged by the utility.

2. OT architectural imperatives, OT and IT are different

Since an ADMS addresses a wide range of distribution operations scenarios, it must extend across traditionally separated information technology (IT) and operational (OT) domains, as well as support the extension of monitoring and control capabilities with management of smart devices in the consumer technology (CT) domain. An important distinction for any ADMS is fully appreciating the difference between OT and IT. It is important for the system to be architected with OT imperatives of protecting life, equipment, and environment; maintain service reliability; operationalize real-time, bidirectional communication/controls; support lossy and messy hybrid radio networks as well as other grid-edge and customer-premise beyond-the-meter IoT devices; support legacy equipment and protocols; and respond to regulatory requirements.

3. Must integrate DERs

The growth of DERs has added complexity to distribution grids. Managing distributed generation, storage, and demand reduction requires advanced monitoring, analysis, control, optimization, and collaboration. The consequence of this is that Gartner observes “utilities are replacing legacy DMS plus OMS, and even first-generation ADMS with an integrated ADMS suite that spans a multitude of participants, with new value frameworks”.ii Not only must your ADMS integrate both utility and customer owned, beyond-the-meter DERs, it must be highly scalable to accommodate the accelerating growth of DERs and flexible for whatever technology the future may bring.

4. Your ADMS is not your DERMS

A modern 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. ADMSs are also typically purpose-built to monitor and control utility-owned, SCADA-connected equipment, assets, and DERs.

A Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) helps energy market participants manage DERs’ lifecycles. It provides utilities with a scalable solution to effectively engage customers; manage and optimize DERs; and automate business processes for DERs. 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.

Oracle Energy and Water offers both solutions as well as A Platform Based Approach to Distribution Grid Management. This means customers have unlimited flexibly to keep up with change and the tools they need to take a composable approach to grid management.

5. Be prepared to properly resource a long complex project

Gartner notes for features it is important for solutions to be plug-and-play where the ADMS is required to integrate with third-party systems, from SCADA to DERMS, to create a true event-driven, real-time platform. They also note it is important to pay specific attention to support, patch management, automated regression testing and deployment processes.

Ultimately, the success of your grid modernization project depends on its ability to deliver results. It must ingest increasingly diverse data from across your distribution grid, orchestrate it, and make it actionable to benefit operations and all stakeholders. We see an increase of customers coming to Oracle for our unique ability to combine OT and IT; manage all grid assets and connected beyond-the-meter customer DER devices across their lifecycle; and most importantly, deliver these projects on-time and on-budget.

Oracle Energy and Water

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