The past year was a busy one for the smart grid, with advanced energy meters and other major grid improvements being rolled out everywhere from Mexico and China to South Korea and the US.
So what does 2012 hold? Chris King, who’s chief regulatory officer for the smart-grid firm eMeter (recently acquired by Siemens), offers his predictions:
- Significant smart meter growth in emerging markets in South America, Eastern Europe and elsewhere. $50 billion smart meter and smart-grid opportunity by 2020. Leading countries include Brazil, Poland, and Singapore.
- Prepayment service will become a major topic of discussion now that smart meters make it possible to implement at no extra cost; the hope is that this will help solve (Britain’s) national scandal of cutting off power to over 6 million poor households per year. This is over 1,000 times as many disconnections as the US, which, with five times the population of the UK, has fewer than 5,000 disconnections per year.
- Smart Grid 2.0 will become a reality where smart meters have been fully deployed, including places like Ontario, Texas, California, Scandinavia and Italy. Consumers will see pricing options, new and interesting data applications — such as the Green Button — and more automation, especially smart thermostats such as Nest.
- Leading utilities will begin deploying data analytics applications to gain insights from the rivers of data now arriving from smart meters and smart-grid devices.
- Waste of renewable energy will become a significant problem, with utilities paying millions to curtail wind power and, for the first time, solar power. The solutions — more transmission lines and time-based pricing to encourage load shifting to match consumption to production — will take longer to implement.
- Electric vehicles will reach critical mass, with over a quarter million plug-in vehicles sold worldwide.
- Smart-grid standards efforts will continue to make good progress, including data exchange standards for providing data to third parties authorized by consumers and sending data from meters to home area network devices in homes and businesses.
- Energy data privacy and security will remain top of mind for policymakers, ensuring that industry delivers on its commitments to provide strong protections for both.
- Policymakers will continue to expand opportunities for participation in the electricity market by the demand side, thus increasing reliability and lowering costs. National regulators in the US, the UK, France, Germany and elsewhere will take concrete regulatory steps such as creating capacity markets.
- The industry’s body of literature and experience will continue to become more compelling regarding issues such as consumer desires for information, pricing choices, and automation; utility reliability and operating savings related to smart meters; the positive business cases for smart meters; the favorable impression that the large majority of consumers have for smart meters in spite of the few but vocal opponents; and the ability for smart meters and smart grids to solve the problems related to implementation of renewable resources.