Importance of a Distribution Management System (DMS) in Grid Modernization

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Argonne National Laboratory – Energy Division, just released a white paper on the importance of a distribution management system (DMS) as part of the advanced distribution management systems for grid modernization.

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 a 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 penetration levels of distributed generating resources powered by renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc.). Recent “storm of the century” events in the northeastern United States 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.

Despite these newly emerging challenges for electric distribution system operators, only a small percentage of electric utilities have actually implemented a DMS. This paper discusses reasons why a DMS is needed and why the DMS may emerge as a mission-critical system that will soon be considered essential as electric utilities roll out their grid modernization strategies.

WHAT IS A DMS? The IEEE Power and Energy Society (PES) Task Force on DMS has adopted the following definition: “A DMS is a decision support system that is intended to assist the distribution system operators, engineers, technicians, managers, and other personnel in monitoring, controlling, and optimizing the performance of the electric distribution system without jeopardizing the safety of the field workforce and the general public and without jeopardizing the protection of electric distribution assets.”

Several key characteristics of the DMS can be derived from this definition:

  • The DMS can be composed of multiple (one or more) systems working together to achieve the established business objectives for distribution grid modernization. That is, the DMS is not necessarily a single, monolithic solution from a single DMS vendor. Most DMS that are in operation today actually comprise separate solution platforms supplied by more than one vendor.
  • Integration is a key characteristic of a DMS. Although a DMS may comprise solutions from different vendors, these systems must be interconnected through standards-based interfaces that permit well-coordinated operation of the electric distribution system.
  • Considerable emphasis is placed on “optimizing” (improving) the overall performance of the electric distribution system. This terminology signals a significant change from well established business practices that focus on maintaining “acceptable” electrical conditions on the distribution system.
  • Safety and asset protection must never be sacrificed to achieve better efficiency, reliability, and overall performance of the electric distribution system.

This white paper is available for download from the Microgrid Knowledge White Paper Library.

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