Smart Meters Account for 80 Percent of
Electricity Meters in North America

By: Johan Fagerberg

Smart grid is a buzzword in the energy sector and has become a catchphrase for politicians, academics, and industry leaders alike. The vision is to exploit the latest technology to address the immense challenge of securing the energy supply in the 21st century. The concept of smart grids is at times put forward as a revolutionary solution to a wide array of problems, including global warming. But a more realistic expectation is that smart grid technology will contribute to improved efficiency and reliability in energy distribution and better optimization in the allocation of resources and utilization of assets.

Benefits will in many cases be indiscernible to the general public. These include fewer and less severe outages, reductions in network energy losses, more efficient energy markets, and improved conditions for producers of renewable energy. Behind the hype, energy infrastructure is becoming smarter day by day as utilities invest in remote monitoring systems, intelligent grid management, and smart energy meters. A growing number of IT systems manage ever larger amounts of information to enable process automation and support decision-making at every level of the energy sector. It will take many years yet for this evolving technology to reach its full potential.

Smart grids are envisioned to incorporate a wide range of features in order to perform the required functions. These include load adjustment, demand response support, greater resilience to loading, decentralization of power generation, and price signaling to consumers. Load adjustment and demand response support enable temporary or continuous adjustments of power consumption and generation during unexpected fluctuations in the balance of supply and demand. Both features are widely implemented on core grid assets and among large industrial customers but can deliver further benefits if extended to the entire network. Greater resilience to loading optimizes network utilization to avoid or minimize blackouts. This is achieved through smart grid design and more intelligent operation. Decentralization of power generation allows individual consumers to generate power onsite by, for instance, installing solar panels, and is expected to increase the share of renewable energy. Price signaling to customers is anticipated to promote behavior and technology that lead to reduced power demand during peaks through variable pricing, a phenomenon referred to as peak-shaving. The first step is usually to introduce differentiated day and night tariffs, with a vision to move towards a price structure which could vary by the hour or the minute in the future.

Smart metering is widely regarded as the cornerstone for future smart grids and is currently being deployed all over the developed world, with a growing number of large-scale initiatives now also being launched in developing countries. Asia-Pacific constitutes the largest market by far while North America ranks as the third largest market after Europe. North America and Europe are two highly dynamic market regions that saw a wave of massive smart metering projects being launched or completed during the first half of the past decade. Several major utilities in these regions are thus now preparing for a second-wave of deployments to take off, driven by new smart meter functionalities and smart energy use-cases.

The North American smart metering industry is diverse and dynamic. The combination of a large and relatively homogeneous energy market characterized by high consumption, a world-leading technology sector, and a diversity of players in the utility industry, has created a favorable climate for growth and innovation. Despite some


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