Distribution Management Systems – Four Lessons From An Implementation

Real-time power system condition and performance information is enabling Madison Gas and Electric to improve operational efficiency and planning.
Published: Thu 18 Sep 2014

Improved grid efficiency, power reliability and customer service are at the heart of Wisconsin utility Madison Gas and Electric Company’s Smart Grid Investment Grant supported smart grid development.

The “Customer-Driven Design of Smart Grid Capabilities” project – so named as MGE intends to use the insights gained into customers’ usage and acceptance of smart grid technologies in order to guide its future strategies – has three components. These are an advanced metering infrastructure with smart meters for all industrial and commercial customers and a sample of residential customers, electric vehicle charging stations, and underlying these a new integrated distribution management system (IDMS).

Distribution management system

The IDMS integrates data from MGE’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system, energy management system (EMS), geographic information system (GIS), AMI head end system, relay information database, and interactive voice response system.

The IDMS also provides system visualization, dynamic system modeling, online power flow analysis, and remote device control capabilities. Additionally, the DMS includes tools such as an outage management system (OMS); fault location, isolation, and service restoration (FLISR); automated feeder reconfiguration (AFR); volt-VAR optimization (VVO); and improved switch order management.

The first phase of implementation was completed under the SGIG program and included building the dynamic system model, visualization tools, the integration with MGE’s existing EMS, and on-line power flow analysis capability.

Energy benefits realized

MGE expects the IDMS to enable a long-term trend toward higher efficiency and reliability, and reports incremental improvements to date in operational efficiency and operations planning.

Detailed, real-time system condition and performance information is available to distribution operations personnel, enabling better management of the switching needed to maintain or expand the system and better decision making during emergency or excessive load conditions. The real-time tools and simulator also allow MGE to better match field operations to load conditions, avoiding having work postponed because of higher-than-predicted load conditions.

The four lessons learned


MGE offers four lessons from the implementation of the IDMS.


Change management: The breadth of tools and capabilities offered by a modern IDMS requires a large change management effort. Provide the distribution operators with sufficient training and time to adapt to the new tools. Avoid the temptation to force new procedures on operators too quickly and plan for the learning curve.

● Broader audience: There are many cases in which IDMS functionality can be useful outside of the control center – in engineering, construction operations, and distribution planning, for example. Identify those opportunities and engage those groups early in the architectural design phase.

● Pace of deployment: Although the IDMS has a long list of operationally significant functions that can be enabled, enabling too much too soon can overwhelm operators and other users of the system data. Balance incremental benefits against incremental costs and vigorously pursue those efforts that produce the most benefit, while being patient with others. Benefits will accumulate as more intelligent equipment is installed in the field.

● Collaboration: Collaborate with the IDMS vendors from the outset, and continually throughout the project, to ensure that that processes are adequately described and accounted for. There are a great number of decisions to be made regarding modeling, base assumptions and business processes. Seemingly small changes to these decisions can reverberate throughout the project.

Future developments

MGE is continuing with the next phases of implementation. In 2014, MGE will complete deployment of the OMS and advanced applications provided by the IDMS. Leveraging the IDMS technology, MGE will expand use of reclosers and automated switching capability (using AFR and FLISR), along with operator-initiated switching, to improve system performance and customer experience. MGE also intends to strategically deploy Fault Circuit Indicators (FCIs) to provide fault current, fault current magnitude, presence of voltage, and periodic current magnitude periodically to the IDMS.

Further reading

Madison Gas and Electric Company: Customer Driven Design of Smart Grid Capabilities