Importance of Automation in Distribution Sector

Development of a country depends on some certain basic infrastructure pillars and one of those is the availability of quality and reliable power in the country. The country needs 24×7 continuous electricity supply to all customers, as well as consistency in sector service and customer participation. After the 2003 Electricity Act was enacted, Indian power distribution utilities have come a long way but still, distribution is the weakest link in the electricity sector’s entire value chain. Thus, the implementation of IT and automation into the service of distribution utilities is important.

In the present scenario, distribution utilities are facing the following key challenges –

  1. Poor Metering Billing and Collection efficiency resulting high AT&C losses
  2. Weak distribution network which is not adequate and healthy
  3. Poor forecasting and inadequate power procurement planning resulting in expensive bilateral transactions and power exchanges
  4. Obsolete infrastructure at sub transmission and distribution level which is not compatible to the automation and Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs)
  5. Capacity and capability constraints of the present workforce including technology embracing barrier
  6. Poor financial performance due to lack of accountability and high pilferages and power thefts

It is very important to address the current challenges and push towards smarter utilities with the best reliability and accountability results. New enterprises enter the power distribution industry, transforming a historically monopolistic sector into a very competitive age.

Some of the key features of future utilities are –

  1. Low losses from AT&C leading to a rich financial situation for distribution utilities
  2. High customer expectations in terms of reliability and quality of power supply
  3. Distribution network automation like smart grid to study customer data such as usage trends, billing specifics, energy efficiency and information on outages etc.
  4. Increase in the distribution of energy resources (DER) with high availability and low cost, such as the use of top renewable resources on the roof, which would allow current consumers fuel at distribution level as the generator
  5. EV penetration with replacement of traditional ICE vehicles while increasing the setting up of charging stations and the retrofitting and reconstruction of distribution networks

Current industry drivers are demanding utilities that provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Yet the grid is becoming increasingly complex as more distributed generation (DG) and distributed energy resources (DERs) are deployed such as photovoltaics (PVs), smart inverters, energy storage and electric vehicles (EVs). Today’s utilities need to incorporate these new players as well as adjust to the electrons’ related multidirectional flow. At the same time, with many orders of magnitude, the amount of the smart sensors and meters used on the grid is rising steadily. Meanwhile, distribution operators are facing a growing amount and speed of grid-generated data that presents a significant challenge to access, understand and respond to.

Utilities do need to predict the effect of weather on generation and load, as well as consider net loads and the effects of automatic restoration in outage scenarios. Without digitalization and a more automated and regulated infrastructure, utilities lack opportunities to better link, orchestrate and optimize their distribution grids. Protecting and improving grid resilience requires proven software solutions for controlling and connecting the many new generation sources, and loading and orchestration with the rest of grid operations. Distribution power analysis provides improved situational awareness for the distribution network and not only provides the operators with visual details, but also the underlying data for many of the Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) advisory and optimization functionality. This distribution power analysis can calculate the operating state of the entire distribution network, filling in gaps in telemetry data visibility without operator intervention, and make results available to view in both current and simulated network states. With new emerging technologies such as Smart Grids, Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), Electric Vehicles etc. in place, it is equally important to improve the existing network’s capacity to integrate these technologies. Therefore, there is a need for more advanced tools capable of organizing and analysing the gigantic volumes of nearby complex data in real time and integrating existing technologies into a unified platform for better network, outage and crew management. Reliability and consumer satisfaction will be enhanced by Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) in reference to the above-mentioned challenges. ADMS has the capability to interface with new smart grid elements like Smart Meters technologies, Automated Demand Response (ADR), Distributed Energy Resources (DER) and Field Force Automation (FFA) etc. It is equipped with improved analysis and planning tools which provides better monitoring, effective network management, improved outage planning, proficient outage and crew management. These advanced applications help in maintaining network availability, power quality, reducing outage duration and ensuring better consumer satisfaction. Smart Cities cater for a customer base of more than 1 lakh for reliable, safe and cost-effective electricity network management.

ADMS in Production Today
• 33% reduction in SAIDI
• 30% reduction in SAIFI
• 3% reduction in voltage for greater network efficiency
• 20% increase in renewable exports onto the grid

In May 2018, Tata Power – DDL implemented first of its kind ADMS, in India. The system will seamlessly integrate sub transmission and distribution management system and customer management system by using geographical information system to further improve outage restoration time. Tata Power-DDL strives to maintain its reliability parameters but, taking into account the growth of disruptive technologies such as Distributed Energy Resource (DER) including solar power plants on the roof, microgrids and electric vehicle development, it is required to meet regulatory and customer requirements. Tata Power-DDL has made progress towards Smart Grid technology such as Smart Meters, Automatic Demand Response (ADR), Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) and Field Force Automation (FFA) in order to meet their further expectations. Such emerging technologies increase the amount of information to be handled and presented. Existing Technology like SCADA, DMS and OMS can handle and analyse limited data and unable to respond on new and relevant data coming from both grid sensors and consumer smart meters effectively.

At present, Distribution Management System (DMS) and Outage Management System (OMS) are different platforms that are integrated with each other and maintaining their own network at each end. Since these are separate platforms, there are often inconsistencies found at each network ends due to which the update at both the DMS and OMS level is unclear. With ADMS in place as a single platform, this will serve DMS and OMS purposes because ADMS is well integrated with GIS through common model information (CIM). This is the first time a framework has been set up by any utility, where ADMS-CIM-GIS is merged together to provide end-to-end network solution. As GIS updates the network, the same will be modified in ADMS. The network will be shared with customers according to the actual state of the platform. In this way, supply status of actual consumer will be updated in case of any outage which will improve consumer satisfaction. ADMS therefore offers an effective immersive visual work environment that incorporates all sources of information into a specific real-time workspace that helps to correctly estimate the user affected and extend the interruption as all work is performed on a popular GIS-based platform and thus preserve network integrity.

Key Benefits to the Utility:
Advance Distribution Management System delivers increased reliability, productivity and efficiency through a single integrated operational platform, providing utilities with:

  1. System has a capability to assist the operator for back feeding the affected area through other supply source for early restoration of customers. This improves reliability indices like SAIDI, MTTR etc.
  2. Reduction in verbal communications between crews/operator via integrated mobile apps for dispatch and switching productivity.
  3. Increase in renewables generation from adaptive network management.
  4. Reducing Total Cost of Ownership through IT/OT Convergence.

Benefits to the Consumers:

  1. Being an integrated system, fault at any level shall provide power outage information to affected customers along with duration of restoration on real time through mobile APP, website, IVRS and call centre. Intimation would also be sent through SMS.
  2. Scheduled maintenance activity through ADMS would facilitate the intimation to affected customer in advance for duration of non-availability of power through SMS.
  3. System has a capability of predicting faults which will result to intimate customer on power non-availability and estimated duration of restoration and send SMS to customers.
  4. System provides real time information of fault to maintenance crew for early restoration of power supply.

Deploying Advanced Distribution Management System is a strategic initiative that needs to be promoted at the organization’s highest level and consistent with the long-range vision of the organisation. ADMS radically changes the way a utility works. Managing these changes is difficult but necessary and it is an integral part of the deployment of ADMS.

Disclaimer : We heartily congratulate Mr Shuvam Sarkar Roy working as Smart Grid Specialist at ISGF for sharing this wonderful article.

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