One of the speakers at Gridweek quoted the CEO of Tendril saying, and I am paraphrasing, that up until now smart grid deployment has been pilots, but in the next six months you will see mass deployments. Gartner's hype cycle for smart grid sees a couple of smart grid technologies on the verge of mass adoption.
A recent GTM Research report “U.S. Smart Grid Market Forecast: 2010–2015” is projecting a rapifd increase in spending over the next few years from $5.6 billion in 2010 to $9.3 billion by 2012, an increase of more than 65 %. GTM Research sees renewable energy and electric vehicles being important drivers for the increasing investment in smart grid. Interestingly GTM Research sees investment in smart grid in the EU also increasing, to a comparable €6.8 billion per year by 2016.
A recent GTM Research survey of North American municipal utilities, of which there are about 2000 and which are as a whole are more conservative in adopting new technology, suggests that smart meter deployments are in the cards for most of them in the next five years.
A number of speakers mentioned the benefits to smart grid arising from the smart grid funding provided over the last few years by the ARRA. Many of the speakers mentioned funding that their utilities had received from the Department of Energy had enabled them to to smart grid deployments. A number of speakers expressed the hope that the American Jobs Act (AJA), proposed by the Obama Administration in the last few weeks will continue to enable the Department of Energy to continue these programs.
Challenges for smart grid deployment
The GTM Research report mentions the three major deployment hurdles identified in its most recent smart grid survey to be systems integration, data management, and electric vehicle integration.
Wednesday's panel at Gridweek was moderated by Martin Rosenberg, whose final question to the panelists was to ask them what they saw as the major roadblocks to smart grid deployment.
- Regulatory landscape - one panelist said that over the past five years, the US has been a leader in smart grid, but because of the complicated regulatory landscape in the US, in the past year or two, the US has fallen behind. He mentioned the EU specifically as an example of an economic jurisdiction where the regulatory landscape is simpler and smart grid is prograssing faster.
- Technical complexity - no one has built a complete smart grid and a lot of the technology is still unknown. There is a lot of room for technology innovation.
- Rate design - designing a rate structure that will make the smart grid financially attractive to consumers and to utilities, while motivating them to save energy and reduce emissions is a challenge that has not been resolved
- Security - almost every speaker mentioned security as something you have worry about every step of the way
- Integration - integrating the systems that utilties use like outage management, customer information systems, billing, inventory, records management, engineering design, ERP, dispatch, and SCADA is a major component of smart grid. As one speaker said the big winners from a business opportunities perspective will be the system integrators.