Distribution automation, AMI key to maximizing smart grid benefits

The integration of distribution automation systems and applications with previously deployed or planned advanced metering infrastructure systems will be key to successful utility smart grid deployments in the coming years, according to a recent report from Navigant Research.

As the smart grid sector matures, utilities are turning their focus to integrating advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) more deeply into the grid, particularly for use in distribution automation applications.

These applications include outage management, restoration verification, load monitoring and profiling, asset and condition monitoring, and the integration of distributed generation assets.

“The integration of advanced metering infrastructure and distribution automation will help utilities wring further financial benefits out of past investments and strengthen their AMI business cases before regulators,” says Richelle Elberg, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “In addition, this synthesis will deliver important cost savings to utilities, particularly in cases where AMI communications networks can deliver relevant data in a timely manner, obviating the need for standalone DA communications networks.”

For a variety of reasons, however, the integration of AMI and distribution automation systems presents a number of challenges to utilities. Potential obstacles, according to the report, can be found in AMI communications networks that are insufficiently robust, and in organizational silos where customer-facing and network operations departments have not historically been required to collaborate. In addition, the sheer volume of raw data these new systems will deliver means that new information technology and analytics solutions will become increasingly critical to program success.

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