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ADMS versus DERMS: who unlocks value at the grid-edge?

Andrew Kontaxis

September 23, 2019

Just ten years ago, the magnitude of behind-the-meter Distributed Energy Resources (DERs) at the grid-edge was not materially significant. We now expect to see roughly 200 million DERs connected globally by 2030. In the US alone, this results in nearly 200GW of flexible load, which is 20% of the system peak[1]. Today, most grid operators lack either visibility or control of behind-the-meter DERs. This lack of grid-edge situational awareness is increasingly a cause for concern with many utilities grappling with the issue of phantom load. The lack of visibility affects grid operators in both long and short timescales. Without real-time data from, or control access to, the DER itself, the operator cannot plan for or manage fluctuations – nor can it benefit from the potential value of these inherently flexible DERs. 

However, with the right software tools in place, DERs can be aggregated and controlled to provide various grid services, allowing the utility to firm renewable output and mitigate grid conditions such as peak load, congestion, and voltage deviation scenarios. In addition, situational awareness in the form of real-time device telemetry, asset state, and forecasts can allow the utility to dynamically fine-tune grid operations and planning.

To learn more, download our whitepaper: “A Vision for the ADMS-DERMS Relationship: Extending
Grid-Edge Situational Awareness and Control.”


The ADMS versus DERMS quandary

As DERs proliferate across utilities’ service territories, distribution operators and planners have the most at risk and the most to gain. However, the question remains – what software system, or system of systems is best suited to unlock value from these DERs? The existing range of systems under their purview do not provide an adequate level of DER access and control. The primary responsibility of the Advanced Distribution Management System (ADMS) is to integrate utility information and systems in order to unify distribution network management, ensuring reliability and optimal operation of the system. ADMS are also typically purpose-built to monitor and control utility-owned, SCADA-connected equipment, assets, and DERs.

Customer-owned, behind-the-meter DERs are fundamentally different from utility-owned DERs and can be demarcated in several ways:

  • Ownership models
  • Communication protocols
  • Connectivity mediums
  • Data fields they relay
  • Availability and flexibility
  • The steps required to access them

 While a number of ADMS today do have modules that control DERs, these assets are utility-owned and thus fully available and dispatchable. The ADMS is neither built to provide real-time situational awareness of, nor has any level of control over, these behind-the-meter DERs.

Reaching behind-the-meter

Utilities are increasingly turning to Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems (DERMS) providers, such as EnergyHub, to manage behind-the-meter, grid-edge, and customer-owned DERs. Our Mercury DERMS platform is built to provide three key services to utilities: resource formation, grid services, and situational awareness.

 The building block for any DERMS is how the resources are formed. For customer-owned DERs, owners need to be engaged with and ultimately motivated to make their DER available for use by the utility. We leverage our deep technical and business partnerships with device manufacturers to acquire customers through various marketing and engagement channels.

 Once the resource is formed, the DERMS is able to provide situational awareness and a variety of grid services to the grid operator. Based on the grid service need and objective, the DERMS takes into consideration each DER’s flexibility before determining which asset, or groups of assets are best suited to provide the requested grid service.


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