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System of Systems Approach to DERMS Helps Balance DER Orchestration

Michael Kelly
May 26, 2021

Guidehouse Insights

It is widely known that utilities face technological challenges due to the growth of distributed energy resources (DER) and intermittent generation sources. This transformation requires a transition from one-way power systems toward a highly networked ecosystem of bidirectional power flows and digitally enabled, intelligent grid architecture. These changes are already occurring. It is just a question of how quickly utilities will leverage DER technologies to optimize operations and adapt to an evolving market landscape.

The advent of the DER management system (DERMS) has created new opportunities to address grid integration challenges while increasing grid flexibility and hosting capacity, enhancing the system’s reliability and safety. A DERMS control system allows the utility or grid operator to proactively optimize its control of the grid and DER, reducing grid disruption and coordinating DER dispatch (where feasible) to support operational needs.

Now Is the Time for a DERMS

Distribution utilities are frequently asking when the right time is to deploy a DERMS. In many cases, utilities do not have tools like an advanced distribution management system (ADMS) to actively manage their network. Other utilities look to deploy demand response management systems and are comfortable with the level of control that these tools provide. Also, there is the pool of utilities with minimal DER penetration in their networks that question why they should invest in a DERMS.

Utilities face a dilemma. For those that have deployed successful but siloed point solutions to address DER needs, replacing them would be complex and expensive. At the same time, they limit their ability to integrate new DER and variable generation assets into the grid.

Utilities could deploy another siloed solution managing DER in their territory, but what utilities need is a tool that enables them to manage new DER and integrate previously deployed systems to help orchestrate old and new asset management in the grid. In other words, they need a system of systems, or a single pane of glass orchestration platform.

Presenting a System of Systems Approach

This approach combines a grid topology-aware dynamic network model, data management, integration layer, and automation to enable a single view across a utility’s different systems. A system of systems architecture is a high value implementation approach that is compatible with a utility’s existing systems and data processes.

In a white paper commissioned by mPrest, Guidehouse Insights examines how the company’s DERMS solution is using this system of systems approach to address the complex dilemmas and tradeoffs facing utilities in their DER management strategies. The mPrest DERMS solution (mDERMS) is an example of a single pane of glass orchestration platform that is simple to install and inexpensive to maintain and upgrade. The system supports all industry standards and is vendor agnostic, easily integrated with existing enterprise IT and operational technology systems.

mPrest’s DERMS

mPrest’s DERMS

(Source: mPrest)

With this system of systems approach, grid owners and operators can integrate previously deployed solutions and deploy new applications more rapidly to launch new services for customers, prosumers, and traditional producers. They can also improve the use of grid assets, provide flexibility services, and collaborate in managing customer-generated electricity.

There is increasing realization that a reexamination is required around DER management technologies. Although many ADMS vendors claim to provide a DERMS as part of their ADMS offering, such a system cannot act as a customer enablement platform. It does not have the ability to scale to the level required by the DERMSs market or offer the response times expected from a DERMS. This is both a technological and infrastructure issue, and an operational and architectural issue. The way to offer a truly orchestrated platform is with a DERMS that integrates with ADMS, demand response, and all other systems using a system of systems platform.