With the increase of renewable energy in electricity generation and increased engagement from demand sides, distribution network planning and operation face great challenges in the provision of stable, secure and dedicated service under a high level of uncertainty in network behaviors. Distribution network planning and operation, at the same time, also benefit from the changes of current and future distribution networks in terms of the availability of increased resources, diversity, smartness, controllability and flexibility of the distribution networks. This paper reviews the critical optimization problems faced by distribution planning and operation, including how to cope with these changes, how to integrate an optimization process in a problem-solving framework to efficiently search for optimal strategy and how to optimize sources and flexibilities properly in order to achieve cost-effective operation and provide quality of services as required, among other factors. This paper also discusses the approaches to reduce the heavy computation load when solving large-scale network optimization problems, for instance by integrating the prior knowledge of network configuration in optimization search space. A number of optimization techniques have been reviewed and discussed in the paper. This paper also discusses the changes, challenges and opportunities in future distribution networks, analyzes the possible problems that will be faced by future network planning and operations and discusses the potential strategies to solve these optimization problems.
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