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Application becoming key in smart grid market

By Donna Donnawitz
March 21, 2012
For the past few years, smart grid technologies have been revolutionizing the global utility grid. Power providers the world over have been installing new smart grid technologies at a pace that may be slower than what many experts wanted, but still fast enough to lead to major changes in the industry. According to a recent Pike Research study, this pace of advance will lead to a major shift in how organizations approach smart grid during 2012.

In the past, the utility industry's focus for smart grid has been on deployment. Approximately 200 million smart meters have been installed around the world, with 40 million of those in North America, Pike Research found. Essentially, deployment is becoming more common and no longer the focus of future innovation in the sector. Instead, 2012 will see more utility providers and investors looking to see actual benefits from smart grid deployment. The emphasis will no longer be on simply getting smart grid to work, but developing ways to gain the most from the technology.

Bob Gohn, vice president for Pike Research, explained that utility providers increasingly need to prove the benefits of smart grid to both investors and consumers. This is creating an environment where proving that smart grid systems can be less expensive and improve environmental efficiency is the focal point of the sector.

"Relatively simple applications such as prepaid metering services should be straightforward, while others, like the integration of distribution automation with advanced metering infrastructure, and the adoption of microgrids, are more ambitious. Major challenges remain, as continuing consumer pushback against smart meters is likely to extend to dynamic pricing program rollouts and home area networking, threatening some of the key principles of smart grid investments," said Gohn.

Many experts have been predicting 2012 will be a major year for smart grid innovation, and while new deployments may not be the focal point of these advances, they will still play a major role in the sector. For many utility companies, the past few years have been a period of resource gathering and research about smart grid systems, and 2012 will be the year of putting the core technology in place. While this process is being completed, it is integral that utility providers also consider the various applications of smart grid technology and ensure the implement the systems in such a way that they generate the benefits promised by the advanced utility solution.

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