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Pronounced variability due to the growth of renewable energy sources, flexible loads, and distributed generation is challenging residential distribution systems. This context, motivates
well fast, efficient, and robust reactive power control. Optimal reactive power control is possible in theory by solving a non-convex optimization problem based on the exact model of distribution flow. However, lack of high-precision instrumentation and reliable communications, as well as the heavy computational burden of non-convex optimization solvers render computing and implementing the optimal control challenging in practice. Taking a statistical learning viewpoint, the input-output relationship between each grid state and the corresponding optimal reactive power control (a.k.a., policy) is parameterized in the present work by a deep neural network, whose unknown weights are updated by
minimizing the accumulated power loss over a number of historical and simulated training pairs, using the policy gradient method. In the inference phase, one just feeds the real-time state vector into the learned neural network to obtain the ‘optimal’ reactive power control decision with only several matrix-vector multiplications. The merits of this novel deep policy gradient approach include its computational efficiency as well as robustness to random input perturbations. Numerical tests on a 47-bus distribution network using real solar and consumption data corroborate these practical merits.

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