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With more and more renewable energy generation (REG) connections, busbar voltage violation and line overloading problems may occur for some parts of a distribution network. However, building new circuits to accommodate REG may have high monetary and environmental costs. This paper considers distribution automation as a supplementary scheme to traditional primary asset investments and analyzes the operational benefits from introducing an autonomous regional active network management system (AuRA-NMS) to a practical distribution system with rich renewable sources. The benefits are quantified in terms of optimal power flow control and investment deferral, and the resulting quantification will inform distribution network operators of the trade-offs between investment in the automation system and in the primary assets, thus helping them to make cost-effective investment decisions. Time-series-based simulation for over an entire year is implemented to calculate the benefits of active power loss and curtailment reductions for AuRA-NMS over the current practice. Part I of this paper illustrates the current schemes for voltage control and constraint management, advanced voltage control and constraint management enabled by the distribution automation, and the annual benefit by introducing the AuRA-NMS to the system with different considerable new DG integrations. Part II analyzes the investment deferral benefit by deploying AuRA-NMS.