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Geographic data integration will soon play key role in smart grid setups, study finds

By Max Burkhalter
July 31, 2012
Smart grid is an incredibly complex technology that interweaves a variety of utility and information technology elements into a solution that can streamline energy delivery. The system combines sensor technologies, smart meters and networking components to provide utility vendors with real-time data pertaining to the state of power delivery, enabling more efficient energy distribution.

However, the smart grid is also a relatively young technology with plenty of room to grow. According to a recent Pike Research study, that growth could soon come in the form of geographic data integration.

The study found that even though most utility executives consider geographic data a key component of smart grid success, few have actually made investments in the technology to this point. This is beginning to change.

Pike Research predicted investments in supervisory control and data acquisition, energy management systems, outage management systems and distribution management systems, though minimal to date, to rise considerably during the next five years.

All of these components fit into the broad net of geographic information systems, which will likely be one of the focal points for utility spending during the next few years. Pike Research said spending in the sector will double during the next few years, with revenues climbing from $1.8 billion in 2011 to $3.7 billion in 2017.

Bob Gohn, chief research director for Pike Research, explained that excess complexity has held back investments in geographic information systems, but the technology is becoming more accessible.

"Until recently, complexity and quality issues surrounding geographic data have constrained utility adoption of GIS technology," said Gohn. "But the success of the smart grid revolves around the SCADA/OMS/DMS/GIS matrix, and having all these aspects operating in concert, driven off of the same data sources, is a mission-critical requirement."

Smart grid solutions, when deployed effectively, deliver considerable efficiency gains. Through geographic information systems and similar technologies, the advanced utility tool has a dramatic impact on how efficiently power is used by ensuring excess energy generation is minimized. The smart grid also enabled more renewable energy deployment, as power storage solutions merged with smart grid can enable more reliable wind and solar energy distribution.

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