Editorial Opinions

Editorial – Issue 065 September 2023

DERs and Distribution Automation

by Alex Apostolov, Editor-in-Chief

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.YM7RH1-e1644660671454.png

Distributed energy resources (DERs) are small-scale power generation and storage systems that are located at all levels of the electric power system – from transmission all the way to near the end user. They typically include solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, wind turbines and energy storage systems. DERs penetration is driven by the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve grid reliability and reduce energy costs.

Today we can define distribution automation (DA) as the use of digital technology to monitor and control the distribution grid. 

DA systems use sensors, communication networks and software to collect data from the grid and to send commands to devices such as circuit breakers, reclosers and voltage regulators. DA systems can significantly improve the efficiency, reliability and security of the distribution grid.

The widespread penetration of DERs in the last decade has a significant impact on distribution automation. DERs and DA are complementary technologies that can work together to improve the performance of the electric grid. DERs can provide a number of benefits to distribution utilities, including reduced peak demand on the distribution grid by providing power during times of high load. 

They can help to improve the reliability of the distribution grid by reducing the duration of outages, providing backup power during outages and mitigating the impact of disturbances on the grid caused by equipment failures. 

DERs can provide increased flexibility to distribution utilities by allowing them to respond to changes in demand and supply more quickly. This can help to improve the efficiency of the grid and to reduce the risk of blackouts.

DA can help to maximize the benefits of DERs by monitoring DERs to collect data on their performance and status. This data can be used to optimize the operation of DERs and to ensure that they are providing the desired benefits to the grid.

DA systems can send commands to DERs to control their operation to balance supply and demand on the grid, to mitigate disturbances, and to improve the reliability of the grid. They can communicate with DERs and with other grid assets to share information and to coordinate their operation, which can help to improve the efficiency and reliability of the grid.

The combination of DERs and DA is a powerful tool that can be used to improve the performance of the electric grid. By working together, these technologies can help to reduce costs, improve reliability, and increase the flexibility of the grid.

The integration of DERs into the distribution grid is having a significant impact on DA. DERs are adding new challenges and opportunities for DA systems.

One of the biggest challenges facing DA systems is the need to manage the increased complexity of the grid. DERs are making the grid more dynamic and unpredictable. DA systems need to be able to collect and process data from DERs in real time in order to maintain grid stability.

Another challenge facing DA systems is the need to coordinate the operation of numerous DERs of different types and sizes located at the different levels of the electric power grid. DERs can be operated by a variety of different entities, including utilities, customers, and third-party aggregators. DA systems need to be able to communicate with these different entities in order to ensure that DERs are operating in a coordinated manner.

DA systems are evolving to meet the challenges and opportunities created by DERs. DA systems are becoming more intelligent and flexible. They are able to collect and process data from DERs in real time and to coordinate the operation of DERs using multiple devices of different types distributed over the distribution grid. This is helping to improve the performance of the distribution grid and to make it more resilient to challenges such as climate change and aging infrastructure.

All of the above made us dedicate this issue of the magazine to the evolution of distribution automation in this dynamically changing world in order to help us meet the goals for reliable, secure and efficient electric power grid.  

“What’s dangerous is not to evolve.”

Jeff Bezos