ADMS – Isn’t AMI Enough?

August 23, 2016 - 2 Comments

What is ADMS and why are utilities implementing or considering ADMS?

Gartner describes ADMS as:

The software platform that automates outage restoration and optimizes the performance of the distribution grid.

ADMS functions being developed for electric utilities include:

  • Fault location, isolation, and restoration
  • Volt/volt-ampere reactive optimization
  • Conservation through voltage reduction
  • Peak demand management
  • Support for microgrids and electric vehicles

The first step for Utilities implementing or considering Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS) is to look at the communication networks that support their smart meters (AMI). Utilities must also look at the ability of smart meters to be edge-of-grid sensors reporting power outage notifications as well as voltage and power quality data in some cases.


The work being done by DoE at the National Labs and the experience of utilities implementing ADMS projects show how crucial high performance, secure, and manageable communications systems are to their success.

The looming challenge is the integration of increasing Distributed Energy Resources (DER), which includes grid-linked roof top solar, electric vehicles, microgrids, and demand management. Even with storage like a Tesla Powerwall, they don’t have stand-alone microgrid capabilities.

Utilities that have distribution feeders with 15% or more of the energy on the feeder linked to rooftop solar have experienced significant voltage swings as PV output fluctuates due to passing cloud shadows – even with smart inverters. This means phase-to-phase imbalances as well because residential service is generally single phase.

Practical advice to utilities deploying ADMS is available in the DoE’s Office of Electricity report: Insights into Advanced Distribution Management Systems. The primary theme of this report is the set of business benefits utilities and their customers can realize through ADMS.

DoE has funded a coordinated set of projects at the National Labs aimed at developing ADMS capabilities specifically targeted at managing voltage, congestion, and phase balancing challenges introduced by DER.

We’ll be presenting the first report on the progress of these projects at the upcoming IEEE Innovative Smart Grid Technologies (ISGT) Conference, September 6-9, in Minneapolis.

For more information on how the management of grid stability requires low-latency distributed control capabilities and how Cisco’s Field Area Network and Fog distributed compute platforms can help, view our website:


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  1. Good point. PLC might help with just detecting point of failure as a side effect of lack of communication, but what is needed is much much smarter solution!

    • Marcin, Thanks very much for your comment. Power Line Carrier (PLC) communications often reveal electrical connectivity that is different than what the utility thought it was. That occurs due to gaps between changes made in repairs, maintenance and power restoration and updating the GIS and connectivity database.