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Capturing Value with Distributed Energy Resources Management Systems

Brett Feldman
Nov 27, 2018

Electrical Substation

At the end of October, I attended the Distributed Energy Conference in Golden, Colorado. It was well-attended for a first-time event, attracting over 300 energy professionals (I’m sure the location and reception at Red Rocks didn’t hurt). I was interested in the diversity of attendees compared to other industry events I usually attend. There was a plethora of fossil fuel-based generator manufacturers, packagers, and distributors trying to figure out where they fit in in a distributed energy world. Will they be displaced by solar, wind, and storage? Or will they be complementary as part of a microgrid? There was no clear consensus, but everyone seemed ready to hedge their bets and partner to control their own destiny.

DERMS Offer Utilities Reliability 

I presented on distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS) at the conference. It’s great that end use customers are installing all sorts of innovative DER projects at their facilities and homes, but if there is no central visibility and control, they could negatively impact the grid by creating local imbalances in power flow. Utilities and other grid operators and energy suppliers can use DERMS to accomplish these tasks and optimize their networks from both reliability and economic perspectives.

DERMS are used by utilities and other grid operators and energy providers to manage multiple DER types in a single system. Rather than relying on proprietary communication protocols for each vendor and device, DERMS use common protocol standards to centrally administer all DER on the grid. This construct saves the operator from having to manipulate multiple systems from multiple vendors for multiple device types, which would make the management of DER almost untenable from a staffing and operational position. 

The Many Use Cases for DERMS

DERMS have evolved from other energy management systems including demand response management systems, advanced distribution management systems, and microgrids. Each of those systems address specific needs of the grid operator, but none of them fully accomplish the holistic role envisioned by DERMS. Numerous use cases for DERMS exist depending on the type of energy provider and the regulatory and market environments in which it operates. Utilities and other grid operators and energy providers are using DERMS to accomplish various goals such as resource adequacy, economic optimization, and grid services, among other cases. 

However, no single definition of DERMS currently exists, so different vendors may call different systems DERMS, and utilities have a hard time comparing systems and figuring out the best one for their application. To try to clear up some of these complexities, join me on January 10 at 2 p.m. EST for the Navigant Research webinar, Capturing Value with Distributed Energy Resources Management Systems. I will be joined by Kyle Garton and Surya Swamy from AutoGrid. Hopefully we will be able to bring some clarity to the DERMS picture for all parties.