During the past five years, U.S. smart grid expenditures have largely gone toward the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). However, to realize the full promise of the next-generation grid, utilities now are eager to go to the next level: grid automation.
Grid automation offers the promise of a more reliable and efficient grid, with real-time remote outage alerts and faster recovery times, as well as optimization of thousands of grid-connected devices and distributed generation sources.
Indeed, according to the results of a “2013 U.S. Grid Automation Study,” sponsored by Paris-based Schneider Electric (News - Alert) and conducted by Austin-based Zpryme Research & Consulting, LLC, more than three-quarters (76 percent) of utilities are planning to procure data grid analytics software and would most prefer solutions integrated into an advanced distribution management system (DMS).
The report, based on a survey of 83 U.S. utility executives, also found that more than two-thirds (70 percent) of respondents prefer to implement a DMS using a vendor that sources best-of breed components and offers systems integration.
“These numbers illustrate that a large majority of U.S. utilities are ready to embrace advances in grid automation and to take up the task of building a grid that meets the needs of tomorrow’s Connected Economy,” commented Jason S. Rodriguez, CEO and director of Research, Zpryme. “Conversely, utilities will need solid support from vendors, integrators, and regulators to truly utilize all of the technologies benefits.”
“Our traditional electrical network is undergoing a massive transformation and many utilities are eager to fully optimize their systems with grid automation projects, in order to fully realize the promise of the smart grid,” said Mark Feasel, vice president of Smart Grid, Schneider Electric. “The long-term result of investments in grid automation will result in a significantly more reliable and efficient grid, higher utility customer satisfaction, and lower energy bills.”
Zpryme also found the following top-line results:
- Six out of ten respondents are very or highly likely to use a major equipment vendor to provide initial system configuration services for grid automation.(The main reasons cited for not using a major equipment vendor for initial system configuration were service level agreement concerns for support, desire to perform “in-house”, and relationship with existing integrator.)
- About one out of five (22 percent) respondents indicated that a high-penetration of (future) renewable energy is expected to cause significant challenges to their distribution system. Specifically, while 12 percent said it would not cause any problems, 29 percent said it would cause small problems, 37 percent said it would cause moderate problems, and 22 percent said it would cause substantial problems.
- Eighteen-percent of respondents indicated that a high-penetration of (future) electric vehicle (EV) charging is expected to cause significant challenges to their distribution system.
- Just over four out of ten (44 percent) respondents chose a commercial and industrial customer-oriented demand response program as their most preferred demand management option. Another 25 percent chose a grid oriented solution, such as Volt-VAR or conservation voltage reduction (CVR). Eighteen percent chose a residential customer-oriented program.
Near-Term U.S. Market Outlook
As U.S. utilities transition from pilot or project mode to full deployment mode, the grid automation market will experience rapid transformation in the near term, according to Zpryme.
Utilities that have already started distribution and substation automation will drive the growth of this market. Progressive utilities will pioneer the use of grid analytics, advanced DMS, sensors, IEDs (intelligent electronic devices), and FLISR (fault location, identification, and service restoration). U.S. utilities will chart the path for global adoption of these technologies.
Additionally, as grid automation deployments increase, it will become easier for utilities to make the business case (to public utility commissions, communities, and investors) for financing such technologies.
Finally, as U.S. utilities embrace global standards such as IEC (News - Alert) 61850– a standard for the design of electrical substation automation–vendors will ramp up their R&D and product portfolios to be able to meet utility demand for grid automation products. This increase in competition will lead to lower equipment prices and increased return on investments for utilities. The long-term result of such investments in grid automation will be a significantly more reliable and efficient U.S. electric grid, higher utility customer satisfaction, and lower energy bills, the report concludes.
Edited by Blaise McNamee