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Since 1971, Carolina Power & Light Company has conducted extensive distribution automation research. Distribution automation research programs have included the testing and development of communications systems, feeder optimization techniques, remote meter reading, appliance control, and dispersed generation functions. Communications technologies investigated have included telephone, radio, and distribution power line carrier. Encouraged by the results of these programs, Carolina Power & Light has installed engineering research facilities to aid the development of distribution automation concepts. These facilities include the complete automation of three 23 kV feeders utilizing distribution power line carrier. This paper outlines the capabilities of these research facilities to investigate the concept of distribution automation. Advantages and challenges of distribution automation are discussed, along with one approach to preparing for implementing distribution automation.