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Visible ROI top issue for smart grid investments

By Donna Donnowitz
January 27, 2014

As public and government expectations for smart grid investments grow, public utility providers are starting to discuss the primary issues holding back these deployments. According to a recent study performed by Tantalus, 41 percent of companies noted a lack of visibility with ROI as a top issue that needs to be addressed this year, followed by addressing customer concerns at 28 percent. These trends both carried over from 2013, even as more firms embrace funding from the Department of Energy and basic smart grid deployments.

"The results of this survey reflect the trends and shifts we've been experiencing with our municipal and cooperative customers," said Tammy Zucco, CMO of Tantalus. "The industry as a whole is maturing, as many utilities have now completed or are several years into their AMI deployments."

What is more interesting in some cases was the issue that providers felt had the least impact on their plans for 2014. According to the report, no businesses cited a future strain on their networks as a top concern in 2014. Only 8 percent cited this issue in the previous year.

The key to deploying smart grid solutions quickly and optimizing the visibility of ROI is to ensure that the grid is optimized for the flow of information. To this end, providers need to be investing in high-quality supporting hardware, such as terminal servers, smart meters and serial to Ethernet converters, which will ensure quick, latency-free transfer of data from consumers to the station, promoting clearer billing and improving the information utilities have to base their ROI analysis on.

The secondary hardware used for smart grid network infrastructure can be an easy factor to overlook. From the type of cabling used to the media converters installed along the way, optimizing these technologies will be critical for information flows and controlling power consumption. Analyzing peak demand times to optimize the delivery of energy through new efforts like automatic shut off of unused appliance and other initiatives can help increase savings as well, boosting overall ROI.

Visibility of ROI is a serious consideration, but by improving overall data flow, utility companies should be able to boost their operations and start recognizing the value in smart grid deployments with ease.

Perle offers a range of cost effective serial-to-Ethernet converters to help meet NERC-CIP compliance for the protection of critical cyberassets in substations. The IOLAN SDS HV/LDC Terminal Server is designed to meet harsh environments associated with Power Substations with attributes such as support for substation AC and DC voltage ranges, extended operating temperatures and meeting emission, immunity and safety approvals associated with substation IT equipment.


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