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This paper examines the use of wide-area automatic control systems in electric power distribution networks. Today only a small percentage of distribution feeders employ wide-area control strategies. However, this number is growing as distribution engineers and managers respond to concerns about system reliability. Distribution networks are growing in complexity in the face of a coming shortage of electrical expertise as the ldquobaby-boom generationrdquo transitions into retirement. In this changing environment, wide-area automatic control holds the promise of increased system reliability. This paper presents wide-area automatic control strategies and discusses the potential impacts on system operations and system protection practices. Topics covered in this paper include: 1. An overview of wide-area automatic control strategies for distribution networks. This overview presents the objectives and basic operating principles of automatic network reconfiguration in recovering from electrical faults, providing load balancing, and assisting with voltage/VAR optimization. 2. The impact on system protection practices. This section discusses how the presence of wide-area control systems affects the protection of the distribution system. 3. The impact on system operation practices. This portion discusses how the operation of the distribution system is affected by the presence of wide-area control systems. Recommendations will be presented that address potential operations and protection challenges introduced by wide-area automatic control systems.