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Smart grid market to hit $220 billion by decade's end

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Friday, January 04, 2013

Smart grid technologies developed to support both core functions and indirect capabilities are expected to be worth as much as $220 billion by 2020, according to a new study released by research firm Zpryme.

According to Electric Light and Power, "Global Smart Grid Technology Forecast 2012-2020" noted that several utilities all over the world are beginning to see smart grid developments as the way forward in the industry. As the demand for a reliable power, renewables integration and energy efficiency grows higher than ever, the utilities industry will make huge investments in these technologies to stay at the forefront of the sector.

"No longer in an infancy stage of development all players such as utilities, service providers, integrators and investors must consider how the coming trends will affect the Smart Grid market as a whole as well as their potential in the space." said Zpryme CEO and research director Jason Rodriguez. "To win utilities as a customer segment, businesses must identify the Smart Grid applications that will not only offer the greatest profit-potential, but also those that fit the service-oriented business model."

An earlier study conducted by Zpryme found that of the 173 smart grid executives that were polled, 50 percent said they are very familiar with intelligent electronic devices (IEDs), which perform critical protection functions and advanced local control intelligence when installed on grid infrastructure. These technologies can also monitor all utility processes and provide two-way communication with a power company's SCADA system.

The most recent survey also found that Asia will likely see the swiftest and highest adoption and installation of IEDs. While North America will also see impressive growth, many utilities in the region will also focus on smart water and gas meters, in addition to electric infrastructure.

Putting IEDs to use
These smart grid technologies are currently the subject of great debates, during which analysts are questioning whether it is cheaper to install smart grid technologies, which currently are still comparatively pricey, or perform damage control after an event hits.

According to Smart Grid news, the answer is simple: invest in smart grid improvements now to see much lower repair costs in the future.

Hurricane Sandy has provided a good example for this conclusion. New York's Consolidated Edison recently said it will need to spend as much as $450 million to repair electric grid damage caused by the storm. This will drive the utility's customers' monthly bills up 3 percent for the next three years.

While the cost of arming the grid with new smart grid technologies trumps the cost of repairs for one storm - by about 100-fold - many analysts are urging utilities to take a broader look at the many storms that have wreaked havoc on their infrastructure. When all of these costs are taken into account, and when all future storms are considered, the argument for an all-out system upgrade becomes more convincing.

"We need to think now of not just restoring the grid, but how to make it more survivable," said Philip B. Jones, president of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC). "I think most commissioners are coming around to that."

As more utilities do see the benefits of smart grid technologies, they'll need to develop a program to efficiently introduce the hardware and software to their existing IT infrastructure. SUBNET has developed several solutions that help utilities connect their wide base of IEDs across any communication platform. The data taken from these disparate devices can then be managed with any IT system, thanks to SUBNET's vendor-agnostic development philosophy. 

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