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If you would ask me among all the new technologies on display here and at other events which will likely dramatically reduce the bottom line of utilities in the transmission business I would say unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones. For example, every utility which has transmission lines spends large sums on overflying, typically with very expensive helicopter flights, transmission lines for vegetation management to monitor the trees to prevent them from interfering with transmissions lines. If instead this could be done with much less expensive UAV flights, the savings would be huge. But right now this is not possible, because commercial operation of UAVs is only allowed by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) with visual line of sight (VLOS) rules.
The potential ROI of using UAVs for vegetation monitoring are expected to be sizable, but this requires the FAA to change regulations to permit operating of UAVs with beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) rules. Today at DistribuTECH2016 Eileen Lockhart of Xcel Energy with partners Environmental Consultants Inc and Flot Systems gave a presentation that showed just how close we are to UAVs operating under BVLOS rules becoming a commercial reality for electric power utilities.
Xcel Energy, which has electric and gas assets in eight states, is the fourth largest utility in the U.S. They have partnered with EEI, EPRI, INL and others in the utility sector to show the way in the application of UAVs in the utility sector. This includes working with the FAA to push forward the practical application of UAVs in the utility sector. Their objectives are improved safety for utility employees and the public, reducing risk to and improving reliability of the grid, and reducing the cost of operating and maintaining grid infrastructure. The technologies involved include GIS and geospatial analytics in addition to the UAVs themselves. Expected sources of major savings are reducing the need for expensive helicopters and plane flights and the time utility employees have to spend in the field.
Xcel launched their UAV Proof of Concept project in 2015 with seven UAV missions in transmission, gas operations, energy supply, and electricty distribution.
Transmission line and tower inspections
Substation facility rating data collection
Pipeline bridge and river crossings inspections
High pressure pipeline inspections
Coal/ash storage inventory (volumetric)
Wind turbine blade inspections
Storm damage assessment
Just last week (Feb 3, 2016) Xcel with its partners completed the first beyond visual line of sight mission with UAV flights over 20 miles of transmission lines. They are convinced that BVLOS flights will become a commercial reality in the near future. The UAV flights will not be flown by Xcel itself but by contractors such as Flot Systems operating with FAA licences. Xcel has not yet calculated ROIs for the applications using UAVs, but plan to do so soon.
Over the past couple of years I have followed the regulation of the commercial use of UAVs in the U.S. In the back of my mind, I have always thought that the application where there would be a tremendous cost benefit from UAVs is monitoring transmission lines for vegetation management. Recently a utility in Southern California has begun flying UAVs to test the concept.
In February of this year the FAA proposed to amend its regulations to adopt rules for the commercial operation of UAVs in the National Airspace System (NAS). The FAA has suggested some types of operations the proposed new rules would allow. These include "power-line/pipeline inspection in hilly or mountainous terrain."
The FAA's proposed rule would limit commercial UAV flights to daylight-only, visual-line-of-sight (VLOS) operations. The unmanned aircraft must remain close enough to the operator for the operator to be capable of seeing the aircraft with unaided vision. The UAV is not permitted to operate over any people not directly involved in its operation. Its maximum airspeed must be100 mph or less (87 knots). It cannot fly higher than 500 feet above ground level or above 18,000 feet of altitude. Minimum weather visibility is 3 miles from the control station. The UAV cannot be operated from a moving vehicle or aircraft. The UAV must weigh less than 55 pounds (25 kg). However, there does not appear to be any restriction on total flight time.
An operator of a UAV would be required to be at least 17 years old, pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test at an FAA-approved knowledge testing center, be vetted by the Transportation Security Administration, obtain an unmanned aircraft operator certificate with a small UAS (small unmanned aircraft systems) rating, and pass a recurrent aeronautical knowledge test every 24 months.
The FAA's proposed rules would exclude long range UAVs such as the Silent Falcon, which is claimed to be the first UAV capable of meeting long endurance mission profiles typical of many commercial, civil, public safety, and other operations. Its daytime endurance is estimated to be 5 to 12 hours depending on wing configuration, weather, and flight profile.
According to a report in Greentech Media, in July of this year San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) became the first utility in the country to begin a pilot program under a FAA Special Airworthiness Certificate. SDG&E plans to fly a pair of UAVs along a half-mile-wide, 2.5-mile-long stretch of transmission line right-of-way in remote eastern San Diego County. The objective is to demonstrate that UAVs are safe and effective and could replace helicopter flights for transmission line monitoring including vegetation management. Replacing helicopter flights, which are typically thousands of dollars per hour, with a UAV would dramatically reduce the cost of vegetation management for transmission lines.
SDG&E appears to be operating its UAVs within the rules proposed by the FAA in February. According to Greentech Media, SDG&E is operating its UAVs with the line-of-sight rule. Each UAV is always in sight of the pilot flying it and the pilot is not in a moving vehicle. The current transmission line being used for the test is in a remote, unpopulated area where there is little risk of the UAV flying over people not involved in operating it.
At Geospatial World Forum 2014 in Geneva this year the GeoEnergy track included 15 presentations. The presentations covered a broad range of topics, but all represent examples of how geospatial data and technology are becoming increasingly a core technology for the modern smart grid. The presentations are available here. Photos are available here.
Context for geospatial in the global electric power utility industry
As Editor-Building and Energy with Geospatial Media and Communications I was the Chair for the track. I provided a short introductory presentation to provide context for the presentations.
Energy demand is projected by the International Energy Agency to increase by a third by 2035, driven primarily by China through 2020, then by India. To enable to electric power grid to accomodate distributed renewable resources, to increase its resilience and to support the rapidly growing Internet of Things, countries around the globe are migrating their electric power infrastructure to smart grid technology. It is estimated that the global smart grid market is growing about 8% annually and it is projected that the cumulative value of the smart grid market will exceed $400 billion by 2020.
Currently geospatial data and technology are used tactically by electric power utilities for many purposes including asset management, outage management, vegetation management, disaster management, renewable energy facility siting, universal electrification planning, energy density mapping, and other applications. New geospatial data acquisition technology such as LiDAR, oblique imagery, high resolution aerial photogrametry, and ground penetrating radar are being used by utilities for a variety of purposed ranging from improving productivity by bringing the field into the office, transmission line siting, vegetation management for transmission lines, encroachment detection, and estimating the solar PV potential of towns and cities.
The smart grid is expected to fundamentally change the role of geospatial data and technology in electric power utilities from tactical to strategic. According to a recent report from Navigant Research “The smart grid is all about situation awareness and effective anticipation of and response to events that might disrupt the performance of the power grid. Since spatial data underlies everything an electric utility does, GIS is the only foundational view that can potentially link every operational activity of an electric utility including design and construction, asset management, workforce management, and outage management as well as supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), distribution management systems (DMSs), renewables, and strategy planning.”
Preliminary results from global utility survey
Preliminary results from Geospatial Media's survey of the global electric power industry were also presented. The survey currently includes North American, African, Asian and European electric power companies.
Some of the highlights of the survey so far are;
80 % of respondents are using GIS for asset management. Interestingly in light of the increased role for GIS motivated by the smart grid, almost a quarter are using GIS for strategic planning. For 28% of the companies surveyed strategic priorities was the most important factors motivating the adoption of GIS.
92% of the companies surveyed reported that productivity and efficiency were an important benefit realized by implementing GIS.
Not surprisingly given the dramatically greater data volumes projected for the smart grid, the most pressing data-related challenges are the volume of data (32%), data compatibility/interoperability (28%), and data quality/completeness (28%).
From a geospatial capacity perspective 37% of respondents reported that their greatest operational challenge is lack of geospatial expertise. A further 21% reported no clear GIS strategy. At the Indian Geospatial Forum, I talked with an Indian utility that had a GIS group with some 50 staff in the field and about 20 staff in the office. None of these people had a formal GIS/Geospatial background - they were all electric power engineers and skilled trades. I suspect this is not atypical of utilities. Reaching these people represents a major challenge for the geospatial industry.
GEO's Contribution to the Achievement of International Energy Goals
Georgios Sarantakos, Expert on Sustainability and Energy, GEO Secretariat, Switzerland
The Energy Programme team of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) consists of scientists from around the globe that work together in order to address specific needs of decision makers at multiple levels. This presentation provides the audience with an overview of how the GEO Energy Team contributes to the achievement of international energy targets and concrete examples at different sectors and scales.
From Earth Observation in GEOSS and GMES to the IRENA Global Atlas for Renewable Energies
Carsten Hoyer-Klick, Head of Department, Systems Analysis & Technology Assessment, DLR, Germany Thomas Wanderer, Research Associate, German Aerospace Center, Institute of Technical Thermodynamics, Systems Analysis & Technology Assessment Nicholas Fichaux IRENA, International Renewable Energy Agency, Abu Dhabi
The Global Atlas for Renewable Energy will join several ongoing activities on global resource mappings starting from solar and wind energy and collection of socio-economic and policy data to develop a central portal for accessing information related to renewable energy resources. Averaged resource data (annual and monthly for solar and wind climate statistics) will be available free of charge to foster solar and wind energy development on a global scale. The portal has a very flexible architecture based on the standards of GEOSS. It is able to discover and view renewable resource data within the GEOSS framework and has the ability to incorporate OGC compatible webprocessing services for further processing and analysis of the data. A few application examples are already within the portal. The portal development was supported by two European projects (EnerGEO and Endorse) which are part of the EU GMES programme.
Satellite-based Nowcasting for Distribution Grids
Holger Ruf, Research Coordinator, Ulm, Germany
The research at IEA deals with decentralized energy systems, process data management and electric drives. In close cooperation with the local utility SWU two test areas and one project house in Ulm were defined for the research of smart grid technologies as well as grid planning and operation issues with high shares of photovoltaic systems. In the “Smart Grid Ulm” project the behavior of the distribution grid is being simulated under the impact of increasing penetration of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) systems. The simulation is based on the results of a roof potential analysis and the measurement results of live test sites.
Exchanging geographical information to prevent excavation damage to cables and pipelines in the Netherlands; a use case of INSPIRE: Utility Services
A.L.M. (Ad) van Houtum, Advisor Product and Process Innovations, Kadaster, The Netherlands
Ad van Houtum of the Dutch Kadaster, Land Registry and Mapping Agency, gave an overview of KLIC-WIN, which is an adaptation of KLIC-Online to meet the future needs of the industry a as well as to be compliant with the national WION legislation and the European INSPIRE Directive. One of the 34 themes of the INSPIRE standards initiative concerns Utility Services (INSPIRE-US), which obligates public network operators to make their data available online through viewing and download services. INSPIRE-US (Annex III Sub-theme 6a Utility Services) is obligatory for 80% of Dutch network operators. There is a strict roadmap for implementing the directive and there are also requirements for responsiveness and availability. The stakeholders (ministries, Kadaster, network operators, and excavators) have agreed and decided to adapt the existing KLIC-Online system to satisfy both WION and the INSPIRE-US requirements. More about this very interesting presentation can be found here.
The Role of GIS in a Modern Utility
Theo Laughner, Tennessee Valley Authority, USA
Utilities around the world are deploying infrastructure to modernize operations which will enable the connection of distributed, renewable resources. However, in the new operational paradigm situational awareness is critical. Historically, geographic information systems have been employed in the utility as part of the design and construction phases of asset lifecycle. New GIS technologies will bring the maps out of the design department and into operations. This presentation shows the many uses of GIS in utilities today and serves to provoke thoughts about how GIS can be used in the future.
Geospatial Data in a Modern-day Electricity System
Artur Brei, Head of Graphic Data Processing, UZ (Unterfrnkische berlandzentrale eG)
New wind farms and huge photovoltaic facilities have a massive impact on Germany’s power grid. The ÜZ in Lülsfeld is a medium sized utility company in Northern Bavaria. We operate a typical regional distribution network in Germany - a large area with many little towns and villages and very much place for renewable plants. In 2013 our electricity turnover was 497 million kWh in total and the renewables had a share of more than 285 million kWh which is more than 50% of the electricity turnover. To manage distributed renewable generation we have to invest three times as much than before 2009. And all that work has to be executed with the same number of employees. GIS is our basic element for design, as-built documentation, operation-, maintaining-, project- and process-management of all our technical assets.
One Oracle Database handles this complex asset data management including all spatial geographical data and is also still flexible enough to meet challenges like adding renewables to the data model. The system is easy to use and it’s also not difficult to connect with other data systems like SAP, customer account system and so on. This is the reason why everybody in our company works with GIS – the most of them are writing data as well.
One key point of our GIS application is to use more graphical shaping/map of one technical asset – as-built map, management plan for low voltage, medium voltage and so on. So the operating team can directly change fuses, set switches and always knows about load capacity in the low voltage network. This is also an important component of “Smart Grid” in the near future for us.
Smart Meters and CityGML for Energy Efficiency in Buildings
The residential sector alone represents 13% of the total delivered energy consumption. There is a need to detail the estimation of energy performances at building level, with open and interoperable geodata together with information from smart metering systems. This scenario is part of the Sunshine project (Smart UrbaN ServIces for Higher eNergy Efficiency), a 3-years R&D project started in 2013 and co-funded by the European Commission. Its main purpose is to deliver an extensible open toolkit of smart services for energy assessment of buildings at urban scale, to facilitate the assessment of consumption in future high-energy efficiency buildings. CityGML is the data model chosen for implementing 3D buildings: a new “Energy” Application Domain Extension (ADE) will be defined in order to describe the energy-related properties of buildings, starting from the existing GeoBIM ADE. Data for the real consumption of energy (heating/cooling) will be provided by smart meters via the Green Button standard - these data will be used to compute the operational energy certification of buildings, to improve performances and reduce costs. More about this SUNSHINE's standards-based approach to energy modeling for entire urban environments can be found here.
A smart approach for the smart grid: Power line corridor data collection with airborne LiDAR technology
Wei Zhang, Senior Technical Manager Jiantong
LiDAR is widely used for scanning transmission lines for a number of applications including vegetation management. Automating this process requires being able to identify and extract features of the power transmission system including pylons, insulators, cables, and other equipment. In this talk a methodology based on a library of known equipment types is reported. Some applications using the resulting model for analysis are presented.
Mapping Solar Potential of West India : a GIS based analysis
Rajiv Gupta, Senior Professor, Birla Institute of Technology and Science India
This work focuses on estimation of global solar radiation and, in particular, it explores the effect of temperature on solar radiation profile of western India. An accurate knowledge of solar radiation distribution in each particular geographical location is crucial for the promotion of solar energy technology. The best way of knowing the amount of global solar radiation is to install quality instruments at many locations in the given region. This requires their day-to-day maintenance, recording and calibration, which is a very costly affair in developing countries like India. We use geographical information system (GIS) to solve this problem. The efficiency of the solar cell is not at the maximum temperature. Paper also finds the optimum field temperature basis where the maximum solar energy can be harnessed annually. Thus, this paper discusses the application of GIS to map the solar potential in western India and regions suitable for tapping solar energy on the basis of global solar radiation data.
Environmental Impacts of Using GIS Applications in Energy Industry
Dr. Recai Ogur, Assoc.Professor - Department of Public Health, Center for Education and Research on Environment – Gene Interaction, Turkey
There is a strong positive correlation between energy and development for the countries. While the countries want to consume more energy, environmental issues resulting from using fossil related fuels have been increasing. It is clear that energy industry related emissions are one of the most dangerous pollutants for environment. One of the most effective and promising tool for managing energy consumption is geospatial technology. Among the benefits of geospatial applications, the followings could be considered as the main gains for energy industry: (a) Increase in effectiveness (b) cost savings (c) better decision making (d) better communication (e) improved data collection and analysis and improved disaster management. We may divide geospatial technology usage in energy industry in main three areas: management of energy resources, transmission of energy and consumption management. Experience has shown that one of the most effective uses of geospatial technologies is the design and management of transmission of energy and energy resources. Consumption of energy may also be an effective area for geospatial technologies; especially energy performance analysis may help also policy makers, architects and engineers for building better communities.
Bioenergy Atlas for Africa (BAfA)
Dr. Markus Tum (DLR), Dr. Wim Hugo (SAEON), Group on Earth Observations
BAfA provides mechanisms for assessment of viability of bioEnergy in competition with other energy resources, both traditional and alternative, while taking supply and demand into account. It is intended to be of sufficient quality and depth in respect of data and assessment of data to provide decision makers, investors, and policy-makers with a baseline for their activities. It is designed to eliminate poor choices, and highlight good choices for detailed investigation of projects, interventions, and investments.
In the last year or so I have come across a number of UAVs at the various conferences I have attended. They range from hexacopters to fixed wing aircraft, but all of them suffer from a serious constraint - limited flight time, typically 40-50 minutes maximum. Under adverse weather conditions flight time is less than that. This limits the usefulness of these UAVs for long range missions, for example transmission line monitoring, which typically involves LiDAR mounted on a helicopter and is expensive.
I have just come across a UAV that promises much longer flight times. The Silent Falcon is a solar/electric, all composite, modular small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) designed for commercial, civil, public safety and Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) applications. It has a solar/electric propulsion system and is made from carbon fiber composite materials similar to many of today's large scale commercial aircraft. It has three interchangeable wing configurations for different flight profiles. It is silent, claiming to be undetectable at less than 200’ above ground (AGL).
It claims it is the first sUAS capable of meeting long endurance mission profiles typical of many commercial, civil, public safety, and other operations. Its daytime endurance is estimated to be 5 to 12 hours depending on wing configuration, weather, and flight profile. Night-time endurance is estimated at 3 to 5 hours. For example, equipped with LiDAR this could be used for transmission line monitoring for vegetation management at a much lower cost than a manned helicopter.
Currently investment in energy is about $1.6 trillion per year. Most of today’s investment spending, well over $1 trillion per year, is spent on extracting, transporting, and refining fossil fuels or building coal and gas-fired power plants. Renewables, together with biofuels and nuclear power, account for around 15% of annual investment flows. Investment in power transmission and distribution networks account for another 15%. Annual spending on energy efficiency is about $130 billion today.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) projects that more than $48 trillion in cumulative investment will be required from now through 2035 just to meet the world's increasing energy demand. More than half of the energy-supply investment is needed just to keep production at today’s levels, to make up for declining oil and gas fields and to replace aging power plants and other equipment.
Around $40 trillion is required in energy supply $23 trillion is in fossil fuel extraction, transport and oil refining $10 trillion is in power generation - renewables ($6 trillion) - nuclear ($1 trillion) $7 trillion in transmission and distribution.
and $8 trillion is required in energy efficiency.
$7.2 trillion in the transport and buildings sectors.
The current annual investment of $1.6 trillion per year needs to increase to about $2 trillion. Annual spending on energy efficiency needs to rise from $130 billion today to more than $550 billion by 2035. These goals will require attracting private investors and capital. But this investment will not come close to reaching the climate stabilization target of 2 °C.
Achieving 450 ppm CO2 or 2 °C
The IEA estimates that $53 trillion in cumulative investment in energy supply and efficiency is required by 2035 to get the world onto a 2 °C emissions path. This will require a much greater investment estimated at $14 trillion in efficiency to lower 2035 energy consumption by almost 15%. Energy supply investment remains at $40 trillion, but investment shifts from away from fossil fuels to the power sector. The investment in low-carbon energy supply will need to increase to almost $900 billion and spending on energy efficiency will have to exceed $1 trillion per year by 2035.
The BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are geographically, culturally and economically diverse, but have one common point on their agenda — the rapid development of the energy industry as a national priority. This is owing to the fact that the primary contribution to the projected increase in world energy consumption (the International Energy Outlook 2013 projects 56% growth between 2010 and 2040) comes from the BRICS. The BRICS countries represent 36% of total global renewable power capacity and almost 27% of non-hydro renewable capacity in 2012.
The BRICS face a wide range of challenges with respect to energy, the critical ones being universal electrification, especially in rural areas; rapidly increasing demand; the need to decrease energy intensity by deploying more renewable energy sources; reducing the high rate of energy losses, especially non-technical; and improving energy efficiency.
BRICS countries have been employing geospatial technology in various capacities in planning, generating, transmitting and distributing electric power. In a just published article in Geosspatial World we've provided a snapshot of the application of geospatial technology in these emerging countries and how we see it evolving in the future.
Utilities in BRICS countries are uniquely positioned as they have been using GIS as an operational tool for some time and are familiar with its capabilities. At the same time, they are not encumbered to the same extent by old, legacy IT systems based on operational silos that remain a challenge for utilities in developed economies. Their work forces are younger, more internet savvy, and more willing to adopt new technologies. The dawn of the data-driven, geospatially aware era promises new opportunities to deliver improved availability, efficiency and affordability. If utility leaders in the BRICS understand the vision and seize the opportunity, they could propel these countries into a leadership position in the electric power utility sector.
At the Second Annual Summit on Data Analytics for Utilities in Toronto, Mathieu Viau, a researcher at Hydro Quebec's IREQ research centre gave a presentation on how he has been using a semantic layer to allow semantic tools such as RDF, OWL and SPARQL to be used to implement semantic interoperability using real utility data from operational GIS, MDMS, ERP, DMS, and other systems. The implementation is inherently geospatial because it is based on Oracle Spatial and Graph.
In this example Mathieu mapped data from GIS, MDMS, DMS, ERP and other systems onto the IEC 61968 Common Information Model (CIM) which is a widely used data model standard for distribution networks. Data quality has become an increasingly important issue because greater grid reliability is one of the important objectives of the smart grid especially in North America. The semantic layer allowed SPARQL queries against a variety of operational data a lot of which includes location. Examples that Mathieu gave included finding all fuses that are more than 12 meters away from a conductor or mapping transformer voltage levels to identify overloaded equipment.
Renewable energy sources like solar and wind power are being used more and more worldwide, while the market share of conventional power stations is decreasing. Wind and solar are intermittent sources of power and balancing these power sources and consumer demand becomes a serious challenge when intermittent reperesent more than about 20% of total demand. For example, distributed generation with many small sources of power feeding energy at medium and low voltage levels can reverse the load flows from lower to higher voltage levels. In addition the greater distances between where power is generated and consumed require increased transmission capacities.
All of these changes affect the provision of system services which balance supply and demand. For example, conventional power stations not only provide most of the balancing energy required in the system, but the inertia of their generators also guarantees the provision of instantaneous reserves for immediate frequency support. Other important system services include voltage maintenance, operation management and re-establishment of power supply.
The decision to shutdown its nuclear power plants in favour of renewable
energy (and increased use of coal) is fundamentally changing the supply
of energy in Germany. In the first six
months of 2012 according to BDEW,
Germany produced 67.9 billion kWh of renewable energy, about 25 % of Germany's total power production. And this trend is accelerating. This represents an
increase of 19.5 % over the same period last year. (Wind energy
accounted for 9.2 %, biomass 5.7 % and solar 5.3 % of total energy
Transmission line buildout
Germany’s transmission-system operators have proposed four high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission lines that would ship power from northern wind turbines to the south, which is more reliant on nuclear energy. In 2011. The estimated €10 billion project is already underway. The project would start with the southern half of a 1000-megawatt, 660-kilometer line called Corridor A from the North Sea port of Emden where there are offshore wind farms under construction around Borkum Island to an AC grid hub about 70 km northwest of Stuttgart. Image IEEE Spectrum
Balancing distributed intermittent generation and demand
To address the challenge of balancing generation and demand with increasing intermittent energy sources distributed over larger areas, the Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH (dena) - the German Energy Agency - has commissioned a study to be led by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Christian Rehtanz, Technical University Dortmund/ef.Ruhr to determine the scope of grid system services in the context of an increasing supply of intermittent energy. In particular, the study will look into the extent to which distribution grids can contribute to grid stability for the transmission grid, and the role renewable energy systems, storage facilities and demand-side management need to play to esnure grid stability and resilience. The results of the study are expected by the end of 2013.
I blogged recently about a report from Memoori, a UK research firm, called “The Smart Grid Business 2012 to 2017”,
which analyzes global smart grid-related sales. Its research has
identified some interesting trends in the current smart grid market.In the last 3 years Memoori estimates that the world smart
grid-related sales has more than doubled from $16.2 billion in 2010 to
$36.5 in 2012. 40% of this is smart meters
A recent report from Navigant Research says that the global smart grid technologies market amounted to more than $33 billion in revenue in 2012. Navigant is projecting that the market for smart grid technologies will reach $73 billion in annual revenue by the end of 2020. The cumulative total for 2013 to 2020 is projected to reach totaling $461 billion.
The report identified five segments: transmission upgrades, substation automation, distribution automation, smart grid information and operations technology and smart metering. According to Navigant the most capital-intensive segment is transmission, which is estimated to contribute nearly $250 billion in revenue from 2013 to 2020, more than half the cumulative total for the smart grid technology market.
According to a report by Innovation Observatory 80 % of the worldwide investment in electricity smart grids by 2030 will be made by 10 countries. Over the next five years, it is projected that the United States will dominate global capital expenditure, but China is projected to pass the U.S. in 2016. For the entire period through 2030, the top spending countires will be China (US$99 billion by 2030), United States (US$60 billion by 2030), India, France, Germany, Brazil, Spain, United Kingdom, Japan and Korea.
In the United States it has been estimated that it requires 12-20 years to plan and build a new transmission line. In October, 2009, nine Federal entities signed a Memorandum of Understanding increasing their coordination to expedite and simplify building of transmission lines on Federal lands. The Obama administration has announced pilot projects to streamline the permitting of transmission lines, to speed up integration of renewables.
It was reported from the recent NARUC Summer Committee Meetings that some U.S. states may not be able to meet their renewable portfolio standards (RPS) goals because of a lack of transmission to carry the power to market. "Transmission constraints are impeding RPS implementation in large portions of New England, transmission congestion is inhibiting renewable energy use in New York."
In California a state Commissioner said that Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) are currently each obtaining approximately 21% of their energy from renewable resources and he expects that California will be able to meet its mandated target of 33% renewable.
Another important factor is the continued low cost of natural gas generation and what some forecast will be the increasing cost of renewable energy generation. For example, Texas has already met its 2020 RPS objective of 10 GW of renewable energy capacity, mostly through wind generation. It is projected that because of competition from low cost natural gas generation, the transmission lines built as part of the the competitive renewable energy zone (CREZ) with a capacity of 18 GW from West Texas, may not be used to their full capacity. One prediction is that only 11 GW of the transmission capacity will ultimately be used. One regulator said that the cost of renewable generation including the necessary transmission and the cost of the dispatchable backstop generation could get too expensive and cause consumer backlash. A FERC commissioner expressed the opinion that ultimately coal and natural gas generation will become more expensive than renewable. The imponderable is when the price of natural gas will rise to what some forecast will be about $8/Mcf from the current economically unsustainable $2.00/Mcf.