ADMS is the Cornerstone of Grid Modernization

Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS) are the Cornerstones of a Grid Modernization Strategy

by Terry Nielsen


Modernizing the grid is a challenging and complex undertaking requiring new approaches to utility business models, regulation policies, infrastructure assessments, updated system design criteria and funding strategies.

Grid Modernization technologies include two-way communication technologies, sophisticated control systems, cost effective automated field devices, as well as improved and lower cost computer processing. These advanced technologies include sensors that allow operators to assess grid stability, Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) that provide nearly immediate access to load information, give consumers better information and automatically report outages. Intelligent Electronic Devices (IEDs) such as relays that sense and recover from faults in the substation automatically, automated feeder switches that re-route power around problems, and other “grid-edge” technologies that provide “real-time” and “near-real time” insight to what is occurring on the grid.

Making sense of the complexities of status changes, alarms, data values and DER impacts from these various technologies must be managed in such a way as to provide Distribution System Operators (DSO) and support staff decision support information that is clear, timely, actionable and easily visualized. These factors, as well as, grid optimization and self-healing functions are why utilities are increasingly employing Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS) as a cornerstone to their Grid Modernization strategy.

Historically, the distribution portion of the electrical grid received little attention compared to transmission and generation systems unless the lights went out. For decades, distribution system operators utilized mostly manual, paper-driven business processes to manage the system. Recently, managing the distribution system has evolved to electronic computer and communication-based decision support and control systems including the three key components of an ADMS: Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA), Distribution Management Systems (DMS) and Outage Management Systems (OMS).

Utilities are upgrading the capabilities of the distribution systems with AMI, field sensors, automated equipment and other grid modernization devices. The increasing penetration of residential and municipal solar generation, and distributed generation in general, impose challenges on the existing distribution infrastructure and the system operator. The requirement for bi-directional flow patterns will require changes to protection and control strategies, enhanced distribution automation and microgrid capabilities, voltage and VAR management, and overall modernization of the distribution grid infrastructure including two-way communication and control.

With these changes, it is becoming obvious the legacy distribution system cannot adequately support the requirements of distribution grid modernization, resulting in an ADMS becoming an essential tool and cornerstone for grid management. ADMS is no longer an optional, nice to have system, it has become a must-have operational system.

The modernized distribution grid employs the following characteristics:

  • Power flows on the distribution system are bi-directional.
  • Two-Way Communications are enabled.
  • Distribution Operations Center and distribution system supervisory control and data acquisition system (D-SCADA) coupled to a central communications system and integrated into an ADMS. This enables two-way information flows among customers, customer meters, and control infrastructure on the grid, including automated equipment including switches, reclosers, voltage regulators, tap changing transformers, and capacitor banks
  • DER’s like rooftop PV connect to the distribution system through the same lines serving their host customer, as do electric vehicles.
  • Home area networks (HAN) that control end-use devices such as air conditioning, water heaters, thermostats etc. that can be controlled via the communication system(s) to regulate end uses to provide demand response or reduce the cost of power by shifting the use schedule.

 Grid Modernization strategies will evolve based on the specific circumstances of each utility, but grid modernization technology roadmaps are including an ADMS as the cornerstone of their implementation plans.

Want to learn more about GridBright’s ADMS and other Grid Modernization strategies, planning, and support offerings?  We assist utilities in achieving business objectives through a unique blend of industry expertise, innovative focus, business strategy, thought leadership, and industry recognized methodologies. For more information contact us at

Terry Nielsen, GridBright EVP of Utility Solutions

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Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS) are the Cornerstones of a Grid Modernization Strategy

by Terry Nielsen