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Smart grid evolving toward renewable energy gains

By Max Burkhalter
June 5, 2012
One of the smart grid's most beneficial capabilities is its ability to support sustainability goals by making it easier for utility departments to depend on renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar power. However, this capacity has gone largely untapped in recent years because the smart grid is relatively young and has only begun being used by utility companies. However, a recent Pike Research study found that the evolution process has begun. While smart grid's ability to support renewable energy goals has come out primarily in pilot projects and tests up to this point, it will start being used in actual deployments over the course of the next few years.

The growth of smart grid renewables integration will likely happen fast and lead to considerable revenues in the sector. Pike Research estimates that the smart grid renewables integration market will reach approximately $4 billion in revenues during 2012. It will then climb by a compound annual growth rate of 23 percent during the next six years, leading to revenues reaching $13 billion in 2018.

Currently, microgrid technology is emerging as the leading candidate for smart grid renewables integration, as microgrids will make up approximately 81 percent of market in 2012. Roughly 91 percent of that market share will belong to remote microgrids, which are primarily used to enhance solar and wind energy distribution in global regions where the existing power grid is underdeveloped or unreliable, the study found.

Peter Asmus, senior analyst for Pike Research, told the news source that the European market is embracing smart grid renewables integration, but utility providers in the United States have been slower to adopt the technology.

"The success record of smart grid renewables integration to date is a mixed bag," said Asmus. "European countries are boldly plowing forward while many U.S. utilities exhibit 'electrotrophobia' - the fear of change linked to greater reliance upon intermittent renewable energy resources. That will change as many utilities launch comprehensive programs and place significant investments in the ability of the smart grid to lower the costs of integrating renewable generation at the transmission, distribution, and residential levels."

The ability to encourage renewable energy use is not the only sustainability benefit of smart grid. The advanced utility solution also makes it easier for consumers to track how much power they are using for different purposes and identify ways to reduce energy consumption on a day-to-day basis.

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