Significant growth in smart grid industry forecast for future
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Significant growth in smart grid industry forecast for future

In recent years, IT workers have been making efforts toward modernizing utilities infrastructure in the U.S, and smart grid technologies have played a significant role in these improvements. While the experts at Pike Research claim that the market for these solutions could be set for significant growth, some experts warn progress could potentially slow.

According to a recent study published by the research firm, the smart grid market represented $33 billion for the utilities industry in 2012, but it is likely to total $73 billion annually by the close of 2020. If Pike's predications prove accurate, the total revenue tied to these advanced infrastructures could totally $494 billion.

The researchers explained that utilities companies will likely need to develop individualized approaches to implementation, but that investing in more modern IT solutions is likely to pay off in a variety of ways beyond revenue.

"The overlay of modern smart grid technologies onto existing grids promises numerous benefits to utilities, including increased reliability and capacity, reduced energy losses, and deferring or eliminating the need for new generation resources," said senior research analyst Bob Lockhart. "These benefits reach far beyond the business of any particular utility to underlie economic growth, social well-being, and the shift to energy sources that are less damaging to the environment."

The Department of Energy (DOE) has also lauded smart grids for the positive outcomes that may follow greater deployment of the technologies. Because these systems are largely self-regulating, they may allow utilities companies to save significant amounts of money on maintenance. Because of this ability for the grids to quickly detect and resolve some potential sources out outages and other problems, they may improve customer satisfaction as the public experiences fewer power loss incidents. In addition, smart grids may be able to help the U.S. reduce its carbon footprint, the DOE noted.

However, Allan McHale, an energy and building controls industry expert at Memoori, cautioned that while his firm's research found smart grid sales growing by 30 percent from 2011 to 2012, it is possible that growth may not continue at this pace going forward. McHale claimed that these rates may drop slightly, to 20 percent, as many early smart grid adopters have taken advantage of some of the more easily deployed solutions first. Advanced metering infrastructures, he explained, have a high initial ROI and are relatively low-risk to companies, so it could be a bigger challenge for utilities companies to get on board as quickly with other aspects of the smart grid. Fortunately, as the technologies themselves and education regarding their benefits improve, it is likely that, overall, success is likely to continue.