Starting an ADMS Journey

How to Prepare for ADMS Implementation

by Terry Nielsen


Today utilities are faced with ever increasing number of challenges that are impacting the industry as never before.  Customers of all classes, demand affordable, high-quality power with high reliability to support the demands of a digital economy. As critical services become more digital and automated, power disruptions have increasingly greater consequences that impact everyone. Customers want to generate power from on-site renewables and sell back excess production to the utility. They also want options to conserve electricity, check daily usage against budget goals, and charge electric vehicles.

  • At the same time, regulators are developing mandates to increase reliability and increase renewable energy production over time. Policy makers are even discussing fundamental changes to how distribution utilities are regulated. New focus on the impacts of natural disasters, weather events, and cyber intrusions are challenging utilities to improve system resiliency.

All of these challenges are creating new requirements for distribution system planning, design and operation. No single part of the utility can address these needs alone. Many utilities have developed Grid Modernization Programs as an effective way to approach the complexities and requirements of the modern grid.  An important element of any grid modernization effort is the implementation of an Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS). An ADMS combines three formerly separate systems:

  • Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA),
  • Outage Management System (OMS), and
  • Distribution Management System (DMS).

Each traditionally would have multiple subsystems and architectures. As a combined solution an ADMS becomes a single common operations platform. It often includes additional advanced operational and engineering applications that never existed in the formerly separate solutions.

Deciding when to begin an ADMS project will most likely be dependent upon one or more of a variety of internal and external demands. Examples include:

  • Requirements for consideration of alternatives to large capital expenditures for system expansion or existing system lifecycle replacement, often categorized together as “non-wires alternatives”
  • Regulator and consumer demand for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improvements in storm response performance and overall storm communications with customers, media and government agencies
  • A desire or mandate to improve coordination with emergency management and other first responders during major events
  • Mandated expenditures on improving system resiliency
  • Proliferation of solar generation and other distributed energy resources negatively impacting the ability to operate the system using the traditional, mostly passive approach
  • Anticipated or emerging needs to support electric vehicles and other transportation infrastructure projects

These factors often work in concert to drive the need for an ADMS implementation. The decision to implement an ADMS begins with a vision of where the utility would like to be at some future date that is based on the demands and/or other business needs specific to the utility. Many utilities have developed Technology Roadmap’s that may have identified ADMS as an element of the corporate technology strategy and even integrated it into the roadmap timeline. However, the over-reaching Technology Roadmap will likely not include the level of detail required to address the complexity of an ADMS implementation.

It is important to recognize that there are no “silver bullets” or “one size fits all” ADMS solutions. The solution must be based on the specific characteristics of the utility. Factors that need to be considered include:

  • The regulatory environment
  • The service territory size
  • The number of customers served
  • The design of the existing distribution system
  • Weather/environmental conditions
  • The readiness and sophistication of other IT/ OT systems
  • The amount and types of existing field automation
  • The quality of existing data
  • The current business processes.

A detailed functional requirement assessment based upon specific business drivers will define what needs to be included in the ADMS and what functions are not necessary based upon unique circumstances. Tight scope control and requirement specificity increases the chances of a successful ADMS that can realize what is envisioned.

Developing use cases that map how information will be used—by who, when, where, and why—will also help to accurately define requirements and help ensure that nothing is forgotten or left out. Use cases are the blueprint that help define the requirements for an RFP as well as determining pricing and deliverables once a vendor has been selected.

Performing the tasks associated with planning an ultimately gaining approval and funding to implementing an ADMS can be overwhelming. GridBright can help. 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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How to Prepare for ADMS Implementation

by Terry Nielsen