The integration of distribution automation (DA) systems and applications will be critical to the success of utility smart grid deployments in coming years, according to a new study from Navigant Research.
The market-research company says that utilities are beginning to focus on more deeply integrating advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) into the grid as the smart-grid sector starts to mature.
DA applications include features such as outage management, restoration verification, load monitoring and profiling, asset and condition monitoring and the integration of distributed generation assets.
“The integration of AMI and DA will help utilities wring further financial benefits out of past investments and strengthen their AMI business cases before regulators,” said Richelle Elberg, a 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,” added Elberg.
Nevertheless, Navigant Research cites a number of challenges that utilities face in integrating AMI and DA systems.
It says obstacles are typically encountered in in AMI communications networks that are insufficiently robust, and in organizational silos where customer-facing (AMI) and network operations (DA) departments have not historically been required to collaborate.
The volume of raw data generated by the new systems also means that new IT and analytics solutions will become increasingly critical to program success.