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Smart grid has bright future in 2012

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Thursday, December 08, 2011

A new forecast from IDC Energy Insights has found that a number of key smart grid sectors will see growth in the next year, including smart meters, automation technologies and cybersecurity, Renew Grid reports.

According to the news source, the group's predictions were presented during a webcast on Tuesday, December 6, and included several smart grid areas.

Smart meter use will likely see a peak in 2012, which will drive demand response technology to become utilities' most active area for investments by 2014. The increase in smart meter deployment will see spending come from federal smart grid grants, mandates for energy efficiency, and choice wholesale market regulations that put demand response in the same classification as power generation.

The IDC said the completion of smart grid projects from large utilities, such as Pacific Gas and Electric and Oncor, will drive smaller companies to deploy their own smart grid projects.

Distribution automation is expected to lead the way in smart grid investments, with a compound annual growth rate set at 13 percent. This trend is expected to last through 2015, with many companies funding their own automation projects.

"The majority of these projects will be self-funded barring any unprecedented federal government [funds], which we don't foresee for the next several years," says Marcus Torchia, research manager at IDC.

Cybersecurity threats to the smart grid are also expected to continue to grow throughout 2012, driving investments in data security higher in 2012 and beyond. Utilities will likely focus on industrial control systems, while asset owners will need to prepare extensively for new North American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) critical infrastructure protocol audit activities, the IDC stated.

Such activities will require utilities to comply with new stringent standards set by NERC. One solutions provider, SUBNET, is well prepared to help utilities meet NERC CIP compliance by leveraging existing assets of an electric utility and using its established corporate IT policies to meet regulations, rather than completely replacing all hardware and software.

Cybersecurity is expected to be a major smart grid issue worldwide in 2012. According to Hidden Wires, a highly interconnected smart grid will create many vulnerabilities in the UK's new grid, with government agencies currently forming a data communication company that will collect, store and protect consumer data in a centralized way.

Other measures demand that utilities implement stronger security measures, with certain cases requiring utilities to inform customers of the data collected and allow them to opt out of an agreement. 

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