Power Systems Engineering Research Center

Transmission and Distribution Technologies Research

The electrical utility industry is experiencing major changes from its historical business structure of a vertically integrated utility to a combination of several different models. However, the basic function of the industry, to produce and to deliver power, safely and reliably, has not changed. The restructuring of the industry has created uncertainty that has contributed to limited investment and improvements in the infrastructure. Additionally, pressures continue to reduce the cost of the electricity. The following key industry factors characterize the industry today:

  • Increasing reliability demands
  • Aging infrastructure
  • Increasing loading of components
  • Increasing availability of operational data
  • More dynamic power flows due to wholesale merchant transactions and increased use of distributed generation
  • Declining ability to isolate and remove components from service for maintenance.

Research Areas in the T&D Technologies Stem

Data Integration and Enhanced Functions

A key element in the electric power infrastructure is the transmission or distribution substation. To ensure reliability and to gain additional value, the assets must be ma-naged in new ways using available data as well as expanded data sets. Opportunities exist to capture and better utilize presently available data from relays, DFRs, and other IEDs, to better monitor assets, locate faults, and perform new functions. Additional op-portunities exist to improve sensors, communications, capture new information and present information in new ways to enhance performance.


  • Transformer loading
  • Fault anticipation, location, low-current arcing, low-voltage arcing, and outage management
  • Automated analysis of data from DFRs and other IEDs
  • Power quality instrumentation
  • New communication techniques, e.g., wireless, video
  • Data security/confidentiality
  • Wide area measurements.

Enhancing the T&D Infrastructure

The transmission and distribution infrastructure is aging and being stressed as loads have increased. New methods need to be developed to better assess the condition of assets, especially methods that can be used without taking the asset out of service. Additional study is needed aimed at understanding the impact of increased loading and aging of assets such as transformers, breakers, conductors, and underground cable.


  • Life assessment and extension
  • Upgrading and rerating
  • Enhanced utilization of rights-of-way
  • Risk management and related maintenance strategies
  • Advanced diagnostics, monitoring and maintenance
  • Better understanding of failure and stress mechanisms
  • Maximizing the utilization of the existing components and infrastructures
  • Evaluation of transmission line and feeder structures
  • Compact designs
  • Innovative transmission and distribution infrastructures such as phase order, frequency, and other configurations
  • Reduction of losses throughout the T&D systems.
  • Better use of communication infrastructures.

Distribution and Transmission Automation

Technology improvements and increasing need to better manage assets have facilitated the implementation of substation automation. The use of automation increases the availability of information and the ability to improve control over the system. However, more work is required to better manage the information and develop methods and algorithms to automate systems to improve system performance and reliability.


  • EMS and DMS
  • Improved monitoring and diagnostics
  • Automated fault assessment and outage management
  • Advanced communication infrastructures
  • New DMS functions
  • Power quality assessment, quantification and mitigation
  • Load control and impact on efficiency.

New Devices and Related Control Concepts

Opportunities exist to study the increasing amounts of available data and identify new phenomena that can lead to the development of new devices and operating practices. Universities have played a major role in the development of foundation theories that have led the industry to new devices and systems in the past. Additionally, universities are positioned to view broad issues impacting the power delivery industry.


  • New power device concepts
  • Advanced power electronic devices
  • New sensors and related measurement systems
  • Novel devices and controls for distributed resources
  • Electric storage devices and related control issues to meet varied business and system objectives
  • Alternative and distributed energy sources (e.g., fuel cells, wind generation, photovoltaic cells, microgrids) with related interfaces and controls
  • Physical and cyber security (e.g., fault tolerance, redundancy, self healing, resiliency)
  • Advanced materials and hardware designs (e.g., insulators, conductors)
  • Advanced battery technologies
  • New methods of energy storage such as flywheels and ultra-high capacity capacitors.
  • Integration of superconducting technology in transmission and distribution engineering
  • Applications of nanotechnologies.

New Paradigms and Designs

Existing monitoring, control, and protection systems are driven by established practices that have been proven in the utility market. However, opportunities to evaluate new control or protection systems exist that leverage the availability of more information and new devices. Universities are positions to have a broad and unbiased view and may identify new basic designs, controls and protection paradigms.


  • Dynamic rating concepts and related controls
  • Project management enhancement
  • Demand side management
  • System-wide relaying coordination with control strategies, new concepts in relay implementation
  • Integration of substation and feeder automation into EMS and DMS
  • Advanced tools and methodologies for testing, evaluation and setting coordination
  • Customer focused energy delivery (energy needs from a customer perspective)
  • Innovative data mining, data management, decision-support and visualization approaches
  • Interactive customer/supplier load control and protection
  • Use of satellite technologies for innovative power system applications
  • Risk-based and cost-based analysis and design
  • New approaches to AC and DC transfer of power
  • New fault current management (devices, strategies, and systems)
  • Phasor and time/frequency paradigms
  • Wireless power transmission.