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Heading Off a DERMS Crisis

Heading Off a DERMS Crisis
The first DERMS requirements meeting at DistrubTECH

“No one’s going to show up. It’s literally the beginning of the trade show. People aren’t even settled in their rooms yet.” That’s what I was thinking as I prepared for SEPA’s DERMS Terms meeting at DistrubTECH.

But they came. First it was a few; but by the time we were ready to go, the room had swelled to 150 people. From utilities to solution providers, NGO’s and regulators, everyone was there to tackle one issue: distributed energy resource management system requirements or DERMS.

A New Electric Sector with a DERMS Problem

When I first started at the Smart Electric Power Alliance three years ago, we barely touched the distribution system. At the time, SEPA was focused entirely on solar. Two mergers, one rebrand, and 25 additional team members later, I can truly say SEPA has changed and so has the electric power sector.

Now, the electric power sector faces a new basic problem: technology is advancing fast and utilities are struggling to keep up the pace; at the same time, solutions provided by industry stakeholders may not fit with legacy systems utilities have already invested in heavily and utilities must struggle to make everything work together.

And DERMS is the solution – or at least it would be if anyone could define exactly what a DERMS is and what it should do.

Rising to the Challenge

As an organization widely trusted by the electric sector, it’s a natural fit for SEPA to facilitate the industry process of defining the requirements of a distributed energy resource management system. Enter Sharon Allan, SEPA’s resident DERMS guru and master networker (not kidding – Sharon must know 87% of the planet). Sharon worked with a key group of utilities and solution providers over the last two years to get the DERMS requirements initiative up and running.

So this intrepid group hit the ground running at the start of 2018, and here’s what I learned from their first DERMS requirements meeting:

  1. This is going to take time, but it will be worth it. Advancements on the distribution system need to be made now. Customer demands are constantly evolving, and utilities need an adaptable system to keep up. When this process is complete, it will open massive new business opportunities for solution providers offering innovative products to the grid.
  2. This is not like other industry initiatives. I’m sure you’ve all been engaged at some point in an effort to set a new standard or industry best practice. I’m sure you’ve been frustrated when 98% of them go nowhere after all your work. This is different. I can say this because 150 people, from ABB and Enbala to Siemens showed up to volunteer their time and make their voices heard. This initiative has legs.
  3. If you’re not involved, you’re taking a big risk. We are not often given the opportunity to have a direct role in determining our future. But for players in the DERMS arena, this is your chance and if you’re not involved, you’re putting your technology’s future in the hands of competitors and third parties. SEPA wants the resulting DERMS requirements to benefit as many stakeholders as possible, but that’s only possible with your involvement.

To learn more and get involved, click here or visit DERMSTerms.org.