Following a period of rapid rollouts, the smart electric meter market has entered a slow growth phase worldwide.  Deployments of new smart meters are down in North America, as U.S. federal stimulus funding tapers off, and the expected boom in smart metering has stalled for the near term in countries such as the United Kingdom and Brazil.  Despite the current slowdown, however, smart meter manufacturers remain optimistic that expected large deployments will translate into new orders in the coming years.  According to a new report from Navigant Research, worldwide shipments of smart meters will peak at 131 million units annually in 2018 before beginning a gradual decrease in shipment volumes.  By 2022, according to the report, smart meter shipments will decline to 114 million units per year.

“Although overall growth has flattened, the global smart meter market continues to experience an upward trajectory,” says Neil Strother, senior research analyst with Navigant Research.  “In France, for instance, the government plans to initiate a smart meter program that will unleash a widespread deployment of 35 million new smart meters from 2014 to 2020.  Also, in Japan, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has taken the first steps toward deploying an expected 27 million new smart meters.  And ongoing pilots in other Asia Pacific countries, Latin America, and the Middle East all indicate new business opportunities over the next several years.”

Although the direct operational and societal benefits of smart meters and the broader benefits of smart grids continue to be debated among policy makers, utilities, regulators, and consumers, worldwide penetration rates demonstrate that acceptance is growing.  Deployments in North America will lead to a smart meter penetration rate surpassing 80 percent by 2019, according to the report.  Smart meter penetration in Europe is expected to match that level by the end of the forecast period.  Driven primarily by China, the forecast penetration rate in Asia Pacific will reach nearly 70 percent by 2022.