IT services will play a key role in smart grid implementations with $200 million worth of pilot projects in operation or about to start, according to an analyst firm.
Most of these projects will potentially focus on smart meters and demand management. Government mandates will be responsible for driving most of the activity in smart metering, which will see about eight million smart meters across Australia, according to a report by Frost and Sullivan titled Strategic Analysis of the Australian Smart Grid Market – June 2010. This approximately represents $US2.1 billion worth of investment by 2015, the report claimed.
It indicates the results of current pilot projects will play an important role in forming the industry's future plans.
The study estimates that the first full scale smart grid rollout is likely to occur around 2013 and the pace of rollouts of different smart grid technologies is expected to significantly vary depending on the validation of business cases. However, overall investment is predicted to rise to between $US4.6 billion and $US6.1 billion by 2015.
“In any emerging market, making the right technology investment means selecting systems that will be sustained and supported by the industry in the years to come,” Frost and Sullivan consultant, Rajat Gupta, said. “In the smart grid market, where investments are valued in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars, utilities are still figuring it out what those systems will be. Therefore the challenge and the opportunity for ICT vendors is to get in early, forge partnerships with the utilities and start ensuring that their solutions become part of the long term future of the power companies.”
Due to the complexity involved in smart grid projects, significant expenditure is anticipated in the areas of outsourcing, systems integration, professional services, support and maintenance.
Within the ICT sector, key spending trends include the development of networking infrastructures for advanced metering projects, and millions of dollars for each project requiring an overhaul of supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), meter data management (MDM) and geographic information systems (GIS). Likely areas of investment within the next few years are MDM systems, GIS software, networks and system integration.
Lack of standardisation and concern over choosing the most appropriate technology that will deliver in the short and longer terms are the major technology challenges facing smart grid projects, Frost and Sullivan claim. Utilities lay significant emphasis on the technologies being scalable and capable of integrating with futuristic demands.
The report examines the current status of and potential opportunities offered by an energy Internet using digital technology to enable multi-directional communication between the grid, suppliers and consumers to deliver efficient, economic, secure electricity.