From Legacy to Leap: The Urgent Need to Advance SCADA, ADMS, DERMS, and WACS in Power Grid Management


In the ever-evolving landscape of the power industry, power grid management software platforms play a crucial role in ensuring the stability, reliability, and efficiency of power grids. Traditional Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems, Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS), Distributed Energy Resources Management Systems (DERMS), and Wide-Area Control Systems (WACS) have been the backbone of power grid management for decades. However, with the advent of new technologies, increased penetration of renewable energy sources, and the growing complexity of the grid, there is an urgent need to leap from legacy systems to advanced, robust, and intelligent grid management solutions. legacy tools to more intelligent, resilient, and versatile grid management solutions. This article delves deeper into the roles of these systems, highlights their challenges, and provides a glimpse into the next chapter of grid management.

Current Status of Grid Management Software Platforms

SCADA, ADMS, DERMS, and WACS have served the power industry well, providing centralised monitoring and control of power grids, ensuring stability, generation-demand balance, fault detection, emergency management, etc. Such grid management systems have been deployed historically in different configurations and version, nevertheless, Figure 1 below depicts an overview of their basic configuration and their high-level interactions.

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Figure 1: Overview of grid management systems.

Some may argue that grid management systems are deployed with a clear separation to handle two distinct classes of assets: utility-owned and customer-owned. While this perspective holds some validity—given that asset ownership is indeed a fundamental distinguishing factor in such grid management systems—the reality of operational regimes is far more intricate.

For instance, within the power industry, instances have arisen where ADMS and DERMS are deployed without coordination, resulting in conflicting operations. Similar coordination gaps have been observed not only between ADMS and DERMS but also between different ADMS systems and WACS. On the flip side of the equation, the capabilities of DERMS have been reported rather vaguely within the power industry. To illustrate, certain instances of DERMS deployment on the power grid merely provide basic status information (such as ON/OFF indications), whereas other implementations offer comprehensive optimisation services.

However, it remains accurate that beyond the technical challenges and idiosyncrasies associated with their deployment in grids, the purposes and distinctions of these systems lack well-defined clarity within the perception of the power industry. This uncertainty extends across system operators, customers, and various energy stakeholders. An overview of the current status and challenges of existing grid management systems are presented below:

  • SCADA systems have been the backbone of power grid management for decades. They provide real-time monitoring, control, and automation of grid assets. SCADA systems enable operators to monitor substations, transformers, and other critical infrastructure, facilitating prompt responses to anomalies and emergencies. However, traditional SCADA systems are limited in their ability to handle the increasing complexity and volume of data generated by modern power grids.
  • ADMS platforms have evolved from SCADA systems to support the integration of distributed energy resources (DERs) and smart grid technologies. ADMS combines SCADA functionalities with advanced analytics and optimisation capabilities, allowing utilities to improve grid reliability, reduce outage durations, and optimise distribution system operations. Despite their advancements, many ADMS implementations are still at a nascent stage and face challenges in handling the growing influx of data from decentralised energy sources.
  • DERMS platforms focus on managing and optimising the deployment of distributed energy resources, such as solar panels, wind turbines, battery storage, and electric vehicles, at the distribution level. These systems play a vital role in integrating renewable energy sources into the grid, optimising energy flows, and ensuring grid stability. However, the proliferation of DERs poses operational challenges for utilities, including managing variability and ensuring grid security in the presence of bidirectional power flows.
  • WACS platforms are designed to provide situational awareness and control across wide geographic areas of the power grid. They leverage synchrophasor technology, which measures phase angle and magnitude in real-time, to identify disturbances and monitor grid dynamics at a regional or national level. WACS enables rapid decision-making during grid-wide disturbances, but their full potential is often limited by data interoperability issues and a lack of standardised communication protocols.

Advancements Needed for a Quantum Leap

Moving from legacy systems to the next generation of grid management software platforms necessitates several key advancements, each serving to enhance the efficiency, adaptability, and security of power grid operations:

  • Interoperability and Standardisation: Seamless integration and efficient information exchange among diverse systems are essential. This calls for the adoption of common communication protocols and data standards. By implementing such universal norms, grid management platforms can overcome the challenges of data fragmentation and incompatible systems, ensuring a unified and cohesive operation.
  • Integration of Renewable Energy Sources: With the rapid growth of renewable energy sources, the grid is facing increased variability and intermittency. This poses a unique challenge for legacy systems. The advanced platforms must leverage sophisticated optimisation engines that can handle the complex task of balancing two-way power flows while satisfying multiple techno-economic objectives. This entails moving beyond traditional numerical methods and embracing innovative solutions.
  • Edge Computing and Virtualisation: The exponential increase in data generation demands efficient processing to prevent data overload. Edge computing, by processing data closer to its source, reduces latency and enables real-time responses. Leveraging virtualisation technologies can further enhance edge computing in the power sector, optimising the delivery of high-quality services.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: To accommodate emerging technologies and the integration of diverse energy resources, future grid management software platforms must be built with scalability and flexibility in mind. Adapting to technological advancements and integrating new assets and functionalities should be a streamlined process, ensuring the software remains relevant and effective over time.
  • Real-time controls: The term ‘real-time’ has unfortunately been misapplied over the past decade, often without achieving the true essence of instantaneous responsiveness. Existing management systems have struggled to establish a seamless and efficient interface for real-time control down to the millisecond level, encompassing all tiers and dimensions of the grid. This issue is increasingly critical given the imminent need for power grid management to operate at millisecond scales. This precision is essential in crafting the dynamic conditions required for the successful integration of 100% renewable energy sources. As the grid's complexity grows, achieving such levels of control granularity becomes paramount for ensuring stability and reliability.
  • Digital Twins: The foundation of optimisation and control strategies lies in accurate network models. Existing network digital twins need substantial refinement to mirror real-time changes effectively. Enhancing their fidelity is crucial for precise operational and monitoring purposes, thereby improving decision-making in dynamic grid scenarios.
  • Real-Time Data Analytics: The accumulation of data in the past decade has been enormous, but often underutilised. Advanced data analytics, empowered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), offer the potential to extract valuable insights from this data deluge. Leveraging AI and ML algorithms can enable predictive maintenance, anomaly detection, and trend analysis, optimising grid performance.
  • Cybersecurity: Given the critical nature of the power sector, robust cybersecurity is paramount. While standards and protocols are being developed, they alone cannot guarantee the security of the power grid. A multi-layered approach that encompasses both physical and cyber safeguards, as well as constant monitoring and proactive threat response strategies, is essential to protect critical infrastructure effectively.
  • User-Friendly Interfaces: Effective decision-making by grid operators depends on intuitive and user-friendly interfaces. The design of these interfaces must prioritise clarity, simplicity, and engagement. The existing barrier of unengaging interfaces can be overcome through the adoption of interactive visualisations, user-centric design principles, and feedback-driven iterative improvements.

In conclusion, while the evolution from legacy systems to advanced grid management software platforms entails considerable effort, the numerous areas for improvement indicate a positive trajectory for the power grid's future. By addressing these key advancements, the power grid can achieve greater efficiency, sustainability, and resilience, ensuring a reliable energy supply for generations to come.

Future Outlook for Grid Management Software Platforms

The transformation of power grid management software platforms from legacy systems to modern, advanced solutions is imperative to meet the challenges of an evolving energy landscape. As utilities strive to optimise grid operations, integrate distributed energy resources, and ensure grid reliability, advancements in SCADA, ADMS, DERMS, and WACS are paramount. The future of power grid management lies in the convergence of SCADA, ADMS, DERMS, and WACS into a unified, intelligent, and adaptive platform. Only by embracing change and evolutions, can power utilities embark on the path to a more resilient, sustainable, and efficient energy future.

In this context, Omega, our power grid management software, is poised to be at the forefront of this transformative journey. With its state-of-the-art features, including AI-driven analytics, cybersecurity robustness, and scalable architecture, Omega stands ready to address the pressing challenges of modern power grid management. As we look ahead, Omega is not only the future but also the catalyst for a quantum leap in the power industry.  We invite you to join us in shaping this future. Let's collaborate to usher in a new era of grid management excellence. Feel free to reach out to us embark on this journey together.