What is Distribution Automation (DA)

DA is a Smart Grid technology that can be implemented on the electric grid’s distribution system of local power lines and neighborhood substations. It often offers the greatest bang for the buck. It improves reliability with real-time monitoring and intelligent control1.

Description of DA technologies

Distribution automation (DA) represents the evolution of control technologies that has taken place as computing power becomes embedded in the individual products that make up the distribution system. DA allows individual devices to sense the operating conditions of the grid around them and make adjustments to improve the overall power flow and optimize performance. Without DA, grid operators in centralized control centers have the responsibility to identify and analyze their power system and intervene by either remotely activating devices or dispatching a service technician.

DA’s role in outage prevention and service restoration

DA automation can be a critical component in outage prevention. One of the benefits highlighted in a number of reports is the “asset management” angle of DA. The sensors and communications associated with DA can provide early detection of the devices that might not be working properly, thus allowing the utility company to replace those devices before an outright failure occurs.

In terms of service restoration, intelligent electrical devices with DA capabilities will not only immediately identify that an outage has occurred, but will also pinpoint the specific devices that are experiencing the fault. Given this information, grid operators—in concert with their outage management system— can route around the problem and automatically restore power to the greatest number of customers and important constituencies such as first responders.


In 2007, the California Energy Commission issued a public interest energy research (PIER) grant to study the value of distribution automation applications by California utilities. The resulting report (CEC 500-2007-028) highlights a variety of benefits derived through distribution automation including routine operational efficiency, management of peak loads, prediction of equipment failure, and system restoration after failure. The full report is available on the California Energy Commission website2 .

1 Berst, Jesse; Smart Grid 101, Everything you always wanted to know about grid modernization in 5 easy lessons; © 2011 by Smart Grid News, pp. 18.

2 www.energy.ca.gov/2007publications/CEC-500-2007-103/CEC-500-2007-103.PDF