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Rishikesh Vishwakarma Rishikesh Vishwakarma Written by Rishikesh Vishwakarma, Solution Architect
on 15 Dec 2023

The power industry is witnessing a surge in the adoption of information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) solutions as utilities play a critical role in energy transition and net zero realization. This trend aims to enhance system efficiency, increase flexibility, reduce costs, and elevate consumer services, driving utilities to embrace advanced technology such as Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS) to optimize grid operations and bolster grid reliability.

ADMS assumes a pivotal role in the modernization and optimization of distribution grids, allowing utilities to meet evolving energy demands, enhance grid reliability, and seamlessly integrate cleaner and more sustainable energy sources. It is an indispensable tool for managing the intricate and dynamic nature of electrical distribution systems. Engineered to furnish utilities with real-time monitoring, control, and optimization capabilities, ADMS has the potential to revolutionize the delivery and management of electricity. However, the implementation and deployment of such a sophisticated software platform framework poses some challenges.

1-Dec-13-2023-08-23-33-0855-AMFigure 1: ADMS system

As utilities embrace ADMS adoption, they must grapple with a range of complex issues spanning technical, operational, regulatory, and organizational domains. From tackling grid integration complexities to managing the intricacies of data, successfully navigating these hurdles is paramount for unlocking the full potential of ADMS and ensuring a more resilient, reliable, and sustainable energy future.

Neglecting to assess objectives, establish a clear roadmap, ensure seamless integration, acknowledge interdependencies, and exhibit transformative and collaborative leadership may pose serious risks. These risks could result in inefficiencies, project delays, and, in some cases, project failure.

Implementing an ADMS involves the following key challenges:

Legacy infrastructure integration (IT/OT): Merging existing IT and OT systems with the new ADMS can be complex and may necessitate significant adjustments to ensure seamless communication and compatibility. The integration with existing IT/OT infrastructure in the utility sector presents challenges stemming from the divergence in methodologies and conventions between these domains. In the OT domain, utility systems employ communications protocols such as DNP3, Modbus, various IEC protocols, and proprietary protocols from diverse device vendors. Conversely, IT relies on protocols like HTTPS, web services, and REST. Bridging this gap necessitates a platform capable of acquiring data from OT operations systems and interfacing seamlessly with IT systems.

The challenge lies in ensuring that the chosen platform can harmonize and normalize data from OT devices to be easily accessed, viewed, and analyzed within IT frameworks. Moreover, integration demands flexibility, adaptability, and interoperability to address the coexistence of different communications standards. Security considerations, including the integration of disparate security measures in OT and IT, further complicate the process. A comprehensive ADMS platform is required to overcome these challenges, one that supports industry standards, facilitates data normalization, and addresses cybersecurity concerns, ultimately aligning the goals of IT and OT for improved reliability and operational efficiencies.

2-Dec-13-2023-08-25-16-8223-AMFigure 2: The structure of an integrated ADMS system

GIS integration: Integrating geographic information systems (GIS) with ADMS poses complex technical challenges. Aligning diverse data structures and ensuring seamless interoperability for real-time data synchronization, especially with the incorporation of the Common Information Model (CIM) to comply with interoperability requirements, requires an intricate approach. Overcoming challenges involves developing a comprehensive technical plan focused on CIM integration. This plan must address the complexities of making different data structures, including CIM, operate cohesively in real time. The key to success lies in a meticulous technical approach that ensures GIS, ADMS, and CIM data seamlessly collaborate, marking a significant advancement toward establishing a well-connected and efficiently operating power distribution system.

AMI integration: Integrating AMI data, including the MDMS, with the Outage Management System (OMS) part of ADMS in Low Voltage (LV) metering brings additional challenges. The large amount and quick movement of data from AMI, especially at the LV level, can stress ADMS capabilities. Making sure MDMS data integrates smoothly with OMS requires overcoming issues related to different data formats and ways of communicating.

At the LV metering level, challenges may include managing the filtering of data in the Meter Outage Process (MOP) layer, as LV systems typically involve a larger number of meters, each generating data at a more detailed level. This increased data volume requires robust processing capabilities at the MOP layer to effectively integrate AMI and OMS systems to maintain real-time synchronization with minimal or no error in data streamed, especially during emergency response scenarios such as storms.

To address these challenges in the integration of AMI data, including LV metering aspects, a comprehensive approach is essential. This includes technical solutions tailored to LV metering, standardization of interfaces, meticulous data quality assurance measures, and ensuring the scalability of ADMS to accommodate the evolving landscape of LV metering in power distribution networks.

DER integration: Integration of distributed energy resources (DER) with ADMS in the energy sector can be tricky. Diverse DER technologies, such as solar panels and energy storage, require compatibility for seamless communication within ADMS. Bidirectional power flows create challenges for the usual grid models, so ADMS’ need to change. Making sure the DER integration system uses real-time data effectively is crucial, especially when the grid is undergoing changes. As we have more kinds of energy sources working together, ADMS must be scalable and capable of managing efficiently. This is especially important at the SCADA level, where control decisions are made within the feeder the DER is connected to. This means making sure everything stays in sync and works smoothly even when the grid conditions are changing.

  • IEEE 1547: This standard addresses the interconnection and interoperability of distributed energy resources with electric power systems. Adhering to IEEE 1547 is critical for ensuring the secure integration of distributed energy resources within ADMS.

Cybersecurity concerns: Cybersecurity is a major concern in OT, which runs mission-critical systems. OT systems have mature technology and last a long time, making it tough to modernize them. To keep them safe, we need to protect their communications networks, make sure devices are secure, control who can access them, plan for what to do if there's a problem, and keep physical access in check. International standards, like IEC 62443, and popular frameworks, such as NIST Cybersecurity and NERC, provide guidelines on how to do this. Utilities need to watch out for risks from third-party connected systems and ensure utility staff knows how to handle them with safety. It is crucial to practice guidelines provided in industry-specific cybersecurity standards such as NERC CIP. Here are a few international standards that provide a framework to implement cybersecurity measures:

  • IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission) 62443: This series of standards outlines security requirements for control systems, providing a framework for implementing cybersecurity measures. Compliance with IEC 62443 is essential for securing the components of ADMS.
  • NERC (North American Electric Reliability Corporation) CIP (Critical Infrastructure Protection) Standards: These standards mandate cybersecurity requirements for the North American bulk power system. Compliance with NERC CIP standards is crucial for safeguarding ADMS, considering its role in managing critical components of the power grid.
  • NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Cybersecurity Framework: This framework provides a comprehensive set of guidelines and best practices for managing and improving an organization's cybersecurity posture. ADMS operators can benefit from aligning their cybersecurity practices with the NIST framework.

Data governance and quality assurance: Effectively managing the substantial volumes of data fetched into ADMS, ensuring its accuracy, and utilizing it for decision-making can pose a significant challenge:

  • Data accuracy and reliability: ADMS needs correct and dependable data to make the right decisions in managing power distribution. Data quality and data availability are the two important pillars in data governance for ADMS. Quality assurance (QA) processes regularly check if the data is accurate, complete, and consistent, ensuring that the information ADMS uses can be trusted.
  • Integration of diverse data sources: ADMS integrates data from various sources such as sensors, SCADA systems, smart meters, and weather stations. Data governance establishes protocols for seamless data acquisition and normalization, ensuring that data from different sources can be integrated cohesively. QA processes further verify the compatibility and consistency of diverse data streams.
  • Storage and retrieval efficiency: Efficient storage and retrieval of data are critical for historical analysis and understanding past events. Data governance frameworks guide the storage architecture, ensuring it can handle the substantial volumes of data generated by ADMS. QA processes contribute to the efficiency of data storage by maintaining data quality over time.
  • Real-time data quality management: ADMS operates in real-time environments, requiring continuous monitoring and quality control of data. Data governance, supported by metadata management, establishes roles and responsibilities for maintaining data quality. Automated checks and alerts provided by QA processes help address real-time data quality issues promptly.

    These ensure the accuracy, reliability, and efficiency of data, supporting informed decision-making, enhancing the resilience of power distribution networks, and contributing to the overall effectiveness of the ADMS system.

Regulatory compliance and standards: The compliance requirements and standards set for a utility depend on where they are. This is necessary to make sure that when you put the ADMS into action, each specific standard is crucial for the power distribution sector. Navigating the North American landscape involves addressing NERC CIP standards, ensuring robust cybersecurity controls and incident response measures. Internationally, adherence to IEC 61850 is essential, emphasizing standardized communication in substation automation. IEEE 1547 sets the stage for safely integrating distributed energy resources, while the NIST Cybersecurity Framework guides the overall cybersecurity posture improvement. Country-specific grid codes dictate technical requirements, ensuring seamless integration. Compliance with data privacy regulations, such as GDPR, safeguards customer data. Successfully tackling these challenges demands a vigilant approach, staying abreast of regulatory changes, and proactively aligning ADMS with the relevant standards governing the power distribution domain.

Resistance to change: Resistance to change during ADMS deployment is often rooted in factors such as familiarity with existing systems, concerns about job roles, and fear of the unknown. Insufficient training, cultural resistance, and a perceived lack of benefits can intensify this resistance. To address these challenges, organizations need to implement transparent communication, inclusive decision-making processes, and comprehensive training programs. Proactive change management strategies are crucial in mitigating resistance, fostering a positive environment, and facilitating the successful integration of ADMS into the organizational workflow.

Inefficient use of resources: Inefficient use of resources can arise from inadequate planning, poor project management, and insufficient training programs for personnel. Excessive customization without considering existing functionalities, ineffective collaboration, and neglect of scalability planning also contribute to resource inefficiency. Failing to align with regulatory requirements and underestimating the importance of existing infrastructure further amplifies the problem. To address these issues, organizations should prioritize thorough planning, effective project management, streamlined customization, improved collaboration, scalability planning, and alignment with regulatory standards. By optimizing resource allocation in these areas, organizations can enhance the efficiency of ADMS deployment, minimizing unnecessary costs and delays.

Change management and organizational culture: Change management involves a structured approach to transition organizations and individuals to new technologies, processes, and workflows. Effective change management is crucial for minimizing resistance, optimizing integration, and ensuring that employees understand and embrace the reasons behind the ADMS implementation. Organizational culture, encompassing shared values and behaviors, influences how employees respond to changes and compliance initiatives. A culture that prioritizes innovation, collaboration, and adherence to regulatory standards is essential for successful ADMS implementation. Open communication channels, collaborative decision-making, and leadership commitment to compliance goals contribute to a positive organizational culture that supports the effective integration of ADMS and alignment with regulatory requirements. Training programs and continuous skill development further ensure that the workforce remains competent and adaptable in the evolving landscape of ADMS operations and compliance.

Facilitating ADMS implementation

In the process of implementing ADMS, utilities need to navigate through various challenges. Some are technical, like dealing with legacy systems, managing data, integration between IT/OT systems, and keeping everything safe from online threats. Others are non-technical, like following regulations, guidelines, and convincing people to accept those changes.

Cyient has helped customers navigate these challenges and supported in successful implementation and maintenance of ADMS systems. It has been supporting utilities right from migrating legacy systems, ensuring seamless integrations, and in data governance to securing systems against online threats and facilitating change management and capacity building for the deployment of IT/OT technologies.


About the Author

Rishikesh Vishwakarma brings 12 years of experience in the Digital Transformation of Utilities, with a focus on specialized areas such as ADMS (Advanced Distribution Management System) implementation, SCADA, Substation Automation, and IT/OT integration. His interests lie in developing comprehensive solutions and overseeing the operationalization of grid modernization initiatives from start to finish.


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