BOULDER, Colo. — The year 2012 represents a turning point for the smart grid sector, where it must prove its value, both in operational and financial terms, to the full range of stakeholders, according to a new white paper from Pike Research. In the next phase of smart grid development and deployment, the question is: What will we do with the massive infrastructure that has been deployed and all the data it will generate?

The smart grid promises a dramatic transformation of the world’s electricity infrastructure, with a long list of goals essential to maximizing efficiency and diversifying future energy supplies, notes Pike Research. While it is occurring more gradually than some would like, smart grid deployment has been taking place at a relatively rapid pace for the electric utility industry. Existing players are transforming, new (and old) players are entering (and leaving) the market, and consumers are realizing a new set of possibilities. Some 200 million smart meters have been deployed worldwide, 40 million of them in North America. Pike Research anticipates that 2012 will be the year in which the focus of the expanding smart grid sector shifts from infrastructure deployment to applications.

“Utilities need to prove to both end-use customers and regulators that the adoption of smart grid technologies, such as smart meters, has been worthwhile in either reducing costs or boosting energy efficiency,” said Bob Gohn, Pike Research vice president. “Relatively simple applications such as prepaid metering services should be straightforward, while others, like the integration of distribution automation (DA) with advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), and the adoption of microgrids, are more ambitious. Major challenges remain, as continuing consumer pushback against smart meters is likely to extend to dynamic pricing program rollouts and home area networking, threatening some of the key principles of smart grid investments.”

Pike Research’s smart grid industry predictions include the following:

• Smart meters will shift from deployment to applications.

• Dynamic pricing debates will escalate.

• Cyber security failures will become almost inevitable.

• Consumer backlash against smart meters will not go away.

• Distribution automation and advanced metering infrastructure will intersect.

• Microgrids will move from curiosity to reality.

• The freeze on home area networks will begin to thaw — just a little.

• Stimulus investments will bear mixed fruit.

Publication date: 04/02/2012