Utilities Investing More in Smarter Distribution, Not 'Smart Grid'

Study finds that utilities are adding increased intelligence and control capabilities in distribution infrastructure.

Smart grid might only be in its infancy through the U.S., but it has captured the public's imagination through a series of products and technologies, such as smart meters, automated metering, and home energy management systems.

But while those technologies continue to develop, a recent study from Pike Research suggests that utility companies are placing greater emphasis on adding increased intelligence and control capabilities to their distribution infrastructure.

The cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts that during the period from 2010 to 2015, worldwide utility investment in distribution automation (DA) will total $46 billion, with a growth in spending rising considerably over the next several years.

"Distribution automation is emerging as the next hot topic in the smart grid industry," says senior analyst Bob Gohn. "For utilities, DA deployments can yield significant cost savings through measurable improvements in operational efficiency, reliability, service quality, and energy conservation, all of which can contribute to customer satisfaction. In many cases, we expect that DA will yield stronger return on investment than smart meters or other high-profile smart grid initiatives."

No area for distribution automation spending will see more funds than distribution switchgear, according to Gohn, a category which includes upgraded distribution transformers, reclosers, sectionalizers, disconnect switches, and fused cutout switches.

Pike Research anticipates that switchgear will represent 53% of distribution automation spending during the 2010-2015 forecast period. Other key DA categories will include Volt/VAR optimization, fault detection, isolation, and recovery, and feeder protection and control.

Pike's Research report, "Distribution Automation," forecasts the size and growth of the worldwide distribution automation market by region and technology segment, analyzing market factors and global issues that impact the market growth.

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