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Smart grid continuing to build momentum

By Donna Donnowitz
December 12, 2011
A number of smart grid technologies are expected to experience noteworthy growth moving into 2012 as more utility organizations begin to invest in the technology, according to an IDC Energy Insights webcast.

Renew Grid reported that IDC anticipates significant growth in a variety of smart grid elements, but especially smart metering, electric vehicle plug-in units, distribution automation systems and lithium-ion batteries.

Many of these technologies are inherently dependent on the robust network infrastructure used to enable data transit between devices using electricity and utility providers. For example, electric vehicle plug-ins are only effective when the network is able to communicate the large uptick in energy use to the provider, which can then redistribute energy to avoid letting the spike create an outage.

Currently, IDC expects demand response to be the most prominent area for smart grid investment among utility providers in 2012, according to Renew Grid. This will make the technology the clear front runner in smart grid spending by 2014. While this will be the most prominent area for investment, IDC expects spending to be somewhat limited for the time being. Most of the smart grid projects currently in operation are sponsored by government stimulus funding or come as a result of energy efficiency mandates.

While spending is currently somewhat limited on new smart grid technologies, there are a number of major utility investors sponsoring a small quantity of major projects. IDC expects the completion of these smart grid investments to create an environment for rapid spending growth in the sector as a whole, Renew Grid reported.

According to Renew Grid, IDC also anticipates significant growth in smart building projects in response to smart grid's growing popularity. To a great extent, this expansion comes in response to state goals to improve energy efficiency and mandate stricter standards.

Smart grid is growing rapidly around the world, as more organizations work to improve utility systems to support sustainable practices. To a great extent, this expansion is being fueled by emerging economies, where utilty systems are not as well developed and therefore easier to replace with smart grid technology.

According to a recent Northeast Group study, while 95 percent of smart meters are housed in developed countries across Western Europe, North America and East Asia, many of the nations in emerging economies are poised to catch up with the rest of the world.

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