Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems

NREL is leading research efforts on distributed energy resource management systems so utilities can efficiently manage consumer electricity demand.

Distributed energy resources (DERs) are proliferating on power systems, offering utilities new means of supporting objectives related to distribution grid operations, end-customer value, and market participation. With DER management systems (DERMS), utilities can apply the capabilities of flexible demand-side energy resources and manage diverse and dispersed DERs, both individually and in aggregate.

NREL-developed optimization tools, control architectures, and DER analytics are collectively contributing to modern DERMS solutions and can help utilities, communities, companies, and other solution providers make existing and incoming devices work for grid flexibility, reliability, resilience, and more.

A schematic of a distributed energy resource management system connected to a network of energy devices.


  • Model-predictive control and network-aware DER optimization
  • Learning-based DER controls
  • DER-aware distribution network management and automation
  • Resilience-oriented community microgrid control and DER management
  • Architecture design and complementary algorithm integration with commercial platforms


NREL and project partners deployed an optimal power flow control approach for rural Colorado co-op Holy Cross Energy. The project team added autonomous controls to homes within a new development constructed by Habitat for Humanity, allowing the homes' solar panels, battery storage, and appliances to automatically balance power and voltage constraints within the neighborhood. The strategy allows Holy Cross Energy to better serve its members by optimizing local energy and is a building block toward autonomous energy systems.

Learn more about the Basalt Vista project.

NREL has innovated a DERMS approach that can more effectively estimate PV hosting capacity by taking into consideration control options for localized inverter optimization. The approach is innovative for adapting to flexible PV interconnection requirements, leveraging state estimation to avoid dependence on load data, and for allowing online DERMS and thereby expanding the PV hosting capacity of power systems.

Learn more DERMS to increase dynamic PV hosting capacity.

To take advantage of flexible grid-edge DERs for improving grid operations, a prerequisite is to possess some knowledge about the DER dispatchability capacity at a given time, the duration of the desired dispatch, and how fast the DER can respond to a control command. Such information collectively determines the DER's flexibility, which can be formally defined as the DER's capability to adjust its consumption or generation pattern.

Learn more about NREL's work on quantifying grid-edge DER flexibility and aggregating the DER flexibility for improved grid operations.

Hierarchical Control of Behind-the-Meter Distributed Energy Resources in Net-Zero Energy Communities

NREL and partners have piloted a hierarchical control system that estimates and forecasts DER flexibility in real time, aggregates DER resources across neighborhoods, and issues operational commands that strengthen both the community and the entire distribution network. The solution creates a grid-support market for DERs while considering homeowner preferences about DER operations.

Networked Distributed Energy Resources for Improving Community Resilience

Emerging smart meters, rooftop PVs, electric vehicles, energy storages, and demand response appliances are adding more intelligence at the distribution grid edge and bringing new opportunities for end-use customers to withstand weather disruptions. NREL developed optimization models and a novel framework to integrate the flexibility of behind-the-meter DERs into grid restoration planning and operation. With this collaboration framework, distribution system operators and end users will be constantly coordinating throughout the outage period to fully use all types of DERs to improve resilience.

Grid-Edge Intelligent Distribution Automation System for Self-Healing Distribution Grids

NREL partnered with a commercial advanced distribution management system technology vendor to develop and validate a model-based, DER-cognizant, hierarchical fault location, isolation, and service restoration platform to achieve self-healing, reliable and resilient distribution grids. This novel platform integrates NREL's novel DER optimization approach into legacy fault location, isolation, and service restoration functions to yield an intelligent distribution automation system that fully leverages grid-edge resources and delivers self-healing controls.

Valuing Distributed Energy Resource Resilience for Both Social and Economic Impacts

Resilience-Oriented Cellular Grid Formation and Optimization

For communities deploying more distributed energy, there is currently a gap in applying these resources for resilience. NREL is innovating a solution that dynamically reconfigures power distribution systems into community microgrids for improved resilience. The method uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to optimally cluster DERs for a variety of operating scenarios. It is being piloted in a 5-MW community in Colorado and will be directly transferable to other co-ops.

Learn more about the resilience-oriented cellular grid formation and optimization project.

Utilities can reduce outages and recover quicker by implementing the right data collection and coordination. NREL and partners are pioneering one approach that draws data from many sources, including grid-edge devices and online forums, and integrates those data with advanced distribution management systems and DERMS platforms to achieve improved real-time situational awareness and automated restoration. Through wide grid visibility and data coordination, rural co-ops involved in the project are showing that advanced and automatic reliability and resilience can also be affordable.

Learn more about the project Solar-Assisted, Stakeholder-Engaged Autonomous Restoration With Data Orchestration.


A Novel Resilience-Oriented Cellular Grid Formation Approach for Distribution Systems With Behind-the-Meter Distributed Energy Resources, 2023 IEEE PES Grid Edge Technologies Conference and Exposition (2023)

Multi-Task Reinforcement Learning for Distribution System Voltage Control With Topology Changes, IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid (2023)

Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems Online: A New Voltage Sensitivity-Enabled Feedback Optimization Framework, IEEE Power and Energy Society Innovative Smart Grid Technologies Conference (2022)

Unleash Values From Grid-Edge Flexibility: An Overview, Experience, and Vision for Leveraging Grid-Edge Distributed Energy Resources To Improve Grid Operations, IEEE Electrification Magazine (2022)

Self-Organizing Map-Based Resilience Quantification and Resilient Control of Distribution Systems Under Extreme Events, IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid (2022)


Fei Ding

Group Manager, Grid Automation and Controls