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Utilities prepare for next phase of smart grid investment

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Monday, September 10, 2012

Although municipal utilities are one of the smaller players in the power generation - delivering electricity to only about 13 percent of all customers in the U.S. - these companies will likely be one of the biggest proponents of the smart grid in the next five years.

According to a new report from GTM Research, despite their size, municipal utilities will pump the most investments into the new grid. GTM's report, which it has issued for the past two years, shows the next phase of smart grid installations will be led by municipal utilities, which could spend as much as $7 billion on deployments through 2017. The report noted that 72 percent said they plan to begin with smart meter deployments, then move on to more complicated installations.

The survey found that utilities believe that once advanced metering infrastructure is in place, distribution automation will be the most important application of the smart grid. In total, 33 percent of respondents said distribution automation will be the most important component, while 18 percent said demand response will be the most crucial element. Another 6 percent believe home and building area networks will be the most significant areas of smart grid deployment.

According to the media outlet, investor-owned utilities were the first major supporters of smart grid rollouts. Already, more than 75 percent of these companies have some form of grid modernization plan in place, which includes advanced metering infrastructure deployments and distribution automation programs. Many of these companies began pilot programs that allowed them to take a trial-and-error approach, which ultimately ended in a network of disparate devices and a highly separated vendor supply chain.

This will result in the need to integrate several different smart grid devices, such as legacy hardware and networks, which will allow vendors to find new business from municipal utilities that need to upgrade their infrastructure.

The report also noted that municipal utilities - and their smaller budgets - will be on the lookout for lower-cost smart grid technologies.

As the grid modernization movement unfolds, more disparate devices will enter the field, causing headaches for utilities looking to use these technologies to collect and analyze vast amounts of grid information. SUBNET's products are designed to allow companies to use any device on any communication platform, ensuring easy and fast installation.

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