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The DERMS of it

Our co-founder and Executive Director Graham Ault was recently featured in the “Energy Insight” Podcast from Smart Grid Observer. Graham discussed the importance and impact of DERMS, microgrids and resilience among other things.


Clean energy is growing at a phenomenal rate with onshore and offshore wind turbines powered by the wind, photovoltaics powered by the sun, new battery energy storage technologies and electric vehicles.

2020 was a record year for renewable capacity additions, which is remarkable given the COVID-19 pandemic. In conjunction with that, on the energy technology front, grids, markets and regulation are also changing fast to keep up with those energy asset changes. To allow clean energy assets to be integrated and play their full role on the grid, grid operators need to manage the spikes and troughs of their energy outputs – these dynamics also affecting market prices.

Distributed energy resource management systems (DERMS) start from the need to connect, manage and control a wide variety of energy assets of different technologies. Energy operators need visibility and the ability to flex their outputs to take advantage of new market opportunities or behind-the-meter demand charge reduction, or onsite self-sufficiency. Community energy operators and commercial and industrial energy customers will want to deploy new energy assets for their own net zero transition goals. (Learn more about our specific customer solutions LINK).

The systems that the distribution utilities have today are incredibly effective at monitoring and supervising the operation of the grid. They know which customers get disconnected by which events and can send crews out to fix all manner of problems very effectively. They can switch circuits remotely and implement various automation schemes to deliver better customer service. You can gather lots of data about the grids but that's not the same as controlling, orchestrating and optimizing this big new fleet of diverse energy assets. That’s where DERMS come in. Utilities can deploy them alongside existing control systems to deliver real time management of the grid and the new DER assets thus keeping the grid safe and customers happy. DERMS advanced algorithms can optimize and schedule the new, flexible energy assets to also deliver financial and carbon reduction benefits.

Our DERMS systems are added and integrated alongside the existing SCADA and distribution management systems. They exchange some data but then our DERMS implements a number of specific functions for grids capacity management, real time flexible generation interconnection or customer asset optimization.

We see DERMS as a complimentary system to the existing utility SCADA and DMS systems. There is a great deal of technicality to the integration, but it is well-trodden ground for us as we’ve now deployed a number of these systems with utilities in Europe and the United States. We have excellent experience dealing with many of the system integration challenges, handling them more quickly and economically over time.

In the north-eastern US, AVANGRID has deployed DERMS using our products. They are using our DERMS to manage the flexible interconnection of their customer's assets, typically solar and sometimes energy storage. Our system allows them to connect customers without the large costs in new grid infrastructure and without the long timeframes to build it. The discussion in New York state has moved significantly onto how to achieve the clean power goals of 70% of energy from clean sources by the year 2030. This clearly involves connecting lots and lots of new clean energy assets and AVANGRID has put forward DERMS and Flexible Interconnections as leading examples in the state-wide consideration of the grid requirements to meet the 70% goal. This planning for grid modernization and upgrade to enable clean energy is still in the early stages but there is tangible progress so far and good signs that the promise of smart grid will help the clean energy transition in the state move faster and cheaper, and be better for customers and grid users.

Things are farther along in the UK where we have worked with UK Power Networks in the South-East of England. They have deployed a sophisticated DERMS system powered by our Strata Grid product which has been managing 150 MW of clean energy assets for several years. In the coming 2-3 years, they'll be connecting a further 500 MW of distributed energy assets to their network. So far there have been very good results from the roll-out of flexible connections, with additional advanced functionality now added for dispatching demand side flexibility procured from customers.

UK Power Networks are already innovating further by looking at how they would manage much larger capacity additions of electric heating and electric vehicle charging through the DERMS. Market analysts have studied what UK Power Networks are doing and highlighted the use of our DERMS as an example of where other utilities are highly likely to follow as they tackle the mass rollout of distributed energy assets.

Technologies are starting to make the transition to net zero a lot more believable today than it was even a year ago. There’s been a big step forward in many advanced energy economies from the changes in electricity demand as a result of Covid and the greater injection of power from the new clean energy assets. Grid operators have managed those changes successfully in most cases and their experience and insight is growing. There’s a lot more optimism now about the chances of the grid being manageable with those high amounts of energy from clean and variable sources.

The way that flexibility or reliability across large areas has been dealt with in the past has typically been by transmission (transporting energy from where it's an excess to where it is needed) and central generation dispatch. But now we can start to see the role that energy storage will play. We can quite cheaply and quickly deploy additional renewables, balanced by energy storage. The management of that extra demand side response will be a big help in grid operations. There are lots of studies ongoing on how to run an electricity system by optimizing the combination of transmission, storage and demand, demand side flexibility, overcapacity from renewables and curtailment or storage of surplus renewable energy. All of these elements combined together can create a much more reliable but also cleaner and more economic grid.


DERMS in the Future Energy Network - an interview with Graham Ault, Executive Director, Smarter Grid Solutions (