Resource and energy management are hot issues all around the world

Governments and society are beginning to understand that energy savings and environment sustainability are important national issues that have an economic value as well. The focus on energy savings and sustainability linked to the rapid development of smart technologies is seeing the focus shift from smart meter rollouts – to the broader issues of smart grids.  These developments should be considered in the broader context of the modernisation of electricity networks through the introduction of sensing, communications and information technology into the grid – also known as machine-to-machine (M2M).

The energy sector is one of the last to face the transformation forced upon them by technical, social and political developments. While the writing has been on the wall for some time – initially driven by environmental and sustainability issues – it was not until consumer energy prices started to increase that the foundations of this industry were questioned, at which point the sector was thoroughly scrutinised by the consumers, media and the politicians. At that time it became clear that the industry had failed to keep up with social change and with changes in technology. It now faces significant challenges, both in relation to sustainability and to price increases.

Despite this increased understanding – in 2013 there seems to be a lull in smart grid developments after the early enthusiasm from 2007 to 2012. We now seem to have arrived at a period of regrouping and rethinking. Around the world some smart meter rollouts have been completed and some are still underway. However, the process has often been interrupted by consumer outcries and political intervention. The main reason for this has been the initial strategic mistake, made when electricity companies embarked on smart meter rollouts more or less as a stand-alone project. Most of these rollouts were based on facilitating time of use (ToU) pricing that would give the electricity companies the opportunity to increase prices at times of peak demand in order to better manage their network.

As long ago as 2006; BuddeComm argued for a much more holistic approach to the looming energy crisis, the climate change issues and energy efficiency in general. We said that the industry should look at the concept of smart grids as an overall approach to these issues. The smart grid concept can indeed facilitate smart meters and ToU, but they could also assist customers in more efficient management of energy use within their homes; and they can also facilitate management of renewable energy, electric vehicles and so on. It has as much to do with industry transformation as with smart technologies. Today there is a much better understanding of the concept of the smart grid and few energy companies would now embark on isolated smart meter rollouts – although some still continue to do so.

The telcos are looking at the broader market of M2M as a key revenue earner for the future and BuddeComm forecasts that sensors and other devices installed within the energy infrastructures will constitute 40%-50% of the overall M2M market. So obviously this is a key target market and it is most likely that the electricity industry will become the largest user of M2M networks.

With a better understanding of the complexity involved in the transformation of the electricity industry; the words ‘smart energy’ are becoming more prominent. BuddeComm believes that the term ‘smart grids’ is too narrow and that eventually ‘smart energy’ will become the accepted terminology, especially once the communications developments in national broadband networks and mobile broadband start to converge with smart grid developments.

BuddeComm’s new report, Global Smart Infrastructure – The Smart Grid and M2M Movement, provides important insights into the movement towards smart grid and smart energy practices. It identifies the key trends which will play an important role in the future, including insights in M2M which is closely related to smart infrastructure developments. The report provides global insights into the unfolding smart meter market and explores the consumer issues impacting upon uptake. In addition, this insightful document includes valuable and unique case studies on selected countries from North America, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Europe.

Examples of key insights:

  • In order to maximise its benefits, there is an urgent need for smart meter and smart grid standards.
  • Smart meters are going to play a key role in smart grids as the in-house energy management tools for the users.
  • With a better understanding of user requirements, apps-based developments rather than display-based customer interfaces are going to be the future.
  • Demonstration projects are currently being used to help understand the challenges and full benefits of Transactive Energy Systems.
  • Broadband Powerline (BPL) transmitting higher data rates (Mbps) on the energy distribution grid has emerged as one of the most promising solution for smart grids.
  • It is crucial for the electricity industry to become far more proactively involved in the development of the super grid, rather than leaving it to be developed by others.
  • The electricity grid is becoming the enabler in many key changes, and by making it an intelligent grid and adding telecoms to it, the power will shift away from the electricity companies to the customers – and the appliances that will be developed will assist this process; some of that on a M2M basis.
  • One of the most significant developments in smart grids in the use of cloud computing, big data and data analytics. These tools have a big role to play in any energy reform as it will enable significant higher levels of energy efficiency.
  • SCaDa is a core component of smart grid infrastructure based on M2M. China already holds a large market share of the SCaDa sector and this is expected to grow even further through to the 2020.
  • This exciting sector sees billions of dollars being invested worldwide in smart grid infrastructure, smart meters and distribution automation systems.
  • There are now several countries that are putting smart infrastructure central to their energy policies as they see this as the key to link the various policy and innovation developments together. Germany, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries are amongst the thought leaders in this field and Germany has invested heavily to make this happen.
  • European countries in general have become major proponents of smart grid infrastructure and smart metering. Countries in the region have developed smart meter policies, in part overseen by the European Commission requirements to meet goals set for 2020.
  • China and the US have some of the largest smart grid markets in terms of value – these two countries are also large investors in the technology.
  • Smart grid technology is only just beginning to be addressed on the African continent – less so from the environmental point of view at this stage but driven rather by the need to manage a chronic shortage.
  • Australia is in a key position to start developing all-encompassing strategies and business models to link resource products and energy products together, and start looking at using knowledge and investments to develop national-scale solutions.
  • Across the Middle East, smart grid trials or deployments have been conducted in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Dubai.
  • Latin American countries are interested in smart energy technology primarily as a way to reduce power theft, which is rife throughout the region.

For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see:

Global Smart Infrastructure – The Smart Grid and M2M Movement

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