This piece was originally published in the November 2017 issue of electroindustry.
Charles W. Newton, President, Newton-Evans Research Company, Inc.
Growth Forecasted for Distribution Automation
The findings presented in this article are based on the completion of two major studies related to distribution automation (DA) conducted by Newton-Evans Research Company., The research firm estimates the total number of primary distribution feeders in the United States and Canada to be 175,000–180,000. Of this total, some 34,122 feeders were in operation in 2015 among the participating utilities. Figure 1 indicates that most of the surveyed utilities operate a substantial portion of their primary medium voltage (MV) feeders at 13/15kV ranges.
Figure 1. Number of feeders indicated as being in operation by sample of 75 responding utilities
Automatic Feeder Configurations
The percentage of feeders indicated by respondents as configured with fully automatic and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA)–controlled sectionalizing switches and reclosers climbed from 5 percent of the 4kV feeders to 24 percent of 13–15kV feeders, and higher yet—to 34 percent—for 22–26kV feeders. About 21 percent of the upper voltage ranges of MV feeders were listed as fully automatic and with SCADA-controlled switches and reclosers installed as of early 2015. By mid-2017, this percentage has likely increased to about 25 percent based on recent informal surveys, as estimated by Newton-Evans.
On a summary basis, nearly one-third of the responding utilities in the DA study cited operation of at least some feeders configured with fault detection, isolation, and recovery (FDIR) / fault location, isolation, and service restoration (FLISR) capabilities. Six percent of 13–15kV feeders and 7 percent of 22–26kV feeders reportedly were configured to provide FDIR/FLISR functionality.
Volt/VAR Control and Optimization
Nearly one-half of the sampled utilities reported having at least some feeders supporting integrated volt/VAR control / volt/VAR optimization (IVVC/VVO) or conservation voltage reduction (CVR). For utilities operating 4kV feeders, nearly one-third (30 percent) reported some use of IVVC/VVO or CVR. The percentage was about the same among those utilities operating 13/15kV feeders. Utilities operating 22/24kV feeders reported high percentages (59 percent) of some of these feeders supporting IVVC/VVO or CVR. At the upper voltage range of MV feeders, respondents stated that they had equipped about 7 percent of their 33-38kV feeders with IVVC/VVO or CVR capabilities.
Overall, 68 percent of the utilities replying to this question indicated that at least some primary feeders will support integrated IVVC/VVO and/or CVR by year-end 2017. See Figure 2.
Figure 2. Utilities operating at least some feeders with integrated VVC/VVO by year-end 2017
Thirty-eight percent of respondents further indicated that the single-most mentioned driver for VVO implementation was the savings that resulted from reducing the need for infrastructure enhancements.
Cost savings brought about by reducing the need for additional generation was second in importance, at 33 percent. About one in five respondents also cited regulatory compliance as a significant driver for implementing VVO. See Figure 3.
Figure 3. Reasons for implementing VVO
As had been observed and reported in earlier Newton-Evans studies of distribution automation, respondents continue to provide a mix of replies to this very important question. Among the 42 percent of utility officials indicating some implementation of FDIR/FLISR on their distribution systems, many have controls implemented at two or three locations. Among the utilities identified (in 2015) as then-current FDIR/FLISR user utilities, controls were listed as being located at the control center (58 percent), in the substation (45 percent), and in the field (52 percent).
To date, research findings indicate control placement for FDIR/FLISR in the future is anticipated to be primarily in the control center, as cited by 67 percent of all respondents. Nearly 40 percent indicated future control location would be in the field, while 29 percent cited plans for substation-based controls. The trend toward placing DA controls in the control center has increased, based on the Newton-Evans 2017 control systems study findings.
Integrating DER into DADMS
Well over one-third of the survey respondents reported having a trial deployment to manage distributed energy resources (DER) within the system either underway (15 percent) or planned (23 percent) by year-end 2017. Among investor-owned utility (IOU) respondents, the percentage rose to 64 percent with activities underway or planned for DA systems to include some level of deployment of DER management tools.
Among respondents to the very recent mid-2017 Newton-Evans study of distribution management systems (DMS) and other control systems who indicated they had implemented or planned to implement an advanced DMS (ADMS), most of this subgroup (82 percent) said they plan to include DERs in their ADMS functionality in the future. See Figure 4.
Figure 4. Integrating DERs
Optimal Placement of DA Device Controls
ADMS and SCADA/DMS technologies will assuredly play an increasingly important role as field-based DA investments continue to grow. There will likely be an increasingly complex array of field devices to monitor and control. Thus the decision on optimal placement of DA device controls will continue to be discussed and debated, as illustrated in Figure 5.
Figure 5. ADMS and SCADA/DMS technologies present an increasingly complex array of field devices.
Market for DA Equipment and DMS to Grow
The combined development of smart DA field devices, associated controls, and software as developed for ADMS and SCADA/DMS systems provides a DA market in the United States alone for NEMA Members that stands at about $1.5 billion currently and will likely exceed $2 billion by 2021. The DA market will continue to show strong growth through at least 2024, when we expect U.S. DA-related shipment values of about $2.5 billion (see Figure 6). Canada will add another several hundred million dollars to this total. Globally, the DA-related market values are likely to exceed $6.5 billion by 2024.
Figure 6. DA-related shipments
 The World Market Study of SCADA, EMS, DMS and OMS in Electric Utilities: 2017-2019 Volume 1: North American Market, Newton-Evans Research Company.
 North American Distribution Automation Market Assessment & Outlook 2015-2017, Newton-Evans Research Company.