The convergence of key technology developments, stronger business cases, and growing regulatory acceptance is accelerating grid modernization. Substations and the increasingly automated and intelligent gear embedded within them will play a critical role in this transformation. According to a recent report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant’s Energy Practice, more than 10,000 substations worldwide will be automated (including both new construction and retrofits of existing facilities) in 2012. That number will surpass 20,000 annually by 2020, the study concludes, leading to a cumulative total of nearly 150,000 substations automated or retrofitted from 2012 to 2020.

“Key challenges such as outage management and recovery, increasingly complex system operations, and equipment management all suggest real growth in the coming years in the market for next-generation substation intelligence and data management,” says senior research director Bob Gohn. “While the trend toward infrastructure modernization will continue, growth will inevitably begin to decelerate somewhat over time as automation technologies reach a high level of installed base penetration.”

Even as more substations are automated as part of overall grid modernization efforts, the nature of this automation will continue to evolve. Basic remote monitoring and control of substation equipment is evolving toward more integrated systems that can leverage other smart grid technologies, such as distribution automation systems, smart metering, and advanced data analytics software within utility control centers. These more integrated uses are still in the early days of their evolution, according to the report.