Technology | Media | Telecommunications

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How Smart Grid Technology will Transform Utilities

Modernizing the legacy electrical grid systems around the world is long overdue, with many parts of the grid more than 100 years old. Undertaking this huge transformation hasn’t been easy to accomplish or attainable at a low cost.

Not only does the world’s electrical system require updates due to age, but as usage increases, and the building of more power plants becomes more difficult, upgrading the "Smart Grid" becomes a requirement, not an option.

Deploying the smart grid requires hundreds of millions of smart meters. Worldwide, smart meter deployments continue to grow, driven in large part by very large deployments in China where new In-Stat research forecasts that the deployment of smart meters will reach 280 million by 2016.

“The smart meter is at the heart of the smart grid transformation, and even though infrastructure and customer education are also important, in these early days it’s all about the smart meter,” says Allen Nogee, Research Director at In-Stat.

Even without other changes, a smart meter allows a utility to offer a wider range of electric rates and to greatly reduce the cost of meter reading, which alone can eventually pay for the smart meter.

With a large numbers of smart meter deployments being forecast, it naturally follows that many technology solutions will evolve, and that is exactly what is occurring.

In-Stat's latest market study includes the following:
  • Worldwide powerline is the clear leader in smart meter connectivity, connecting the meter back to the utility.
  • However, there's an increasing number of wireless solutions including cellular, whitespace, and proprietary methods that use unlicensed spectrum and operate in a mesh configuration.
  • China, the world’s biggest energy consumer, is also the biggest smart meter consumer.
  • The number of smart meters deployed in the U.S. per year will decrease after peaking in 2011, during which stimulus money drove utilities to update their meters.
  • Worldwide, smart meter deployment will continue to grow.