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Research group provides update on 2013 smart grid, renewables growth

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A new report shows that the forecast for how the smart grid will play into the growth of renewable energy integration is strong, and that although such projects will be expensive, they'll likely be an essential part of building out a modernized energy infrastructure, Greentech Media reports. 

According to the news source, there will also be the chance that the growth will be highly unpredictable, with many road bumps along the way. All this could come as regulatory changes and new business models will create an even more confusing environment for smart grid growth. The report, released by Black and Veatch, surveyed about 600 utilities, asking questions that ranged from natural gas projections to renewable energy storage. 

The report, titled 2013 Strategic Directions in the U.S. Electric Industry, showed that many utilities are holding fast to the same beliefs they reported in the previous years' survey, including a forecast for continually high energy prices, the fear of waning reliability in electric distribution networks and how new regulations will change the way utilities will need to operate.

"This year's report reflects the views and outlooks of an industry in transition," said Dean Oskvig, President of Black & Veatch's global energy business. "From the lack of clarity in energy policy to disruptive effects of unconventional gas supply, major shifts are occurring just as the industry embarks on a new round of unprecedented capital spending addressing concerns over aging infrastructure, reliability and resilience."

Some of the key findings from the report showed carbon regulation is the biggest concern for utilities, with 70 percent of respondents saying these regulations will tighten even further in the next eight years. The survey also found that the large majority of utilities say they plan to implement a new smart grid program this year. However, the high costs of such programs are also causing many to question whether the investment will be worth it. Some of these problems have been traced back to competing capital investment programs. 

"The Report's findings show the industry is at a tipping point," said John Chevrette, President of Black & Veatch's management consulting division. "Industry leaders must come to agreement on how to best manage the competing goals of delivering safe, reliable service while minimizing the cost to consumers."

SUBNET is well positioned to help utilities assert themselves as experienced smart grid industry members, developing several solutions that make it more cost effective to implement smart grid technologies. 

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