IDC Energy Insights has released the results of the Worldwide Quarterly Smart Meter Tracker. Global smart meter shipments in the second quarter of 2012 (2Q12) grew 33.6% over the previous quarter, and were up nearly 51.3% year over year. By the end of 2012, IDC expects worldwide annual meter shipments to surpass 130 million units.

While smart metering continues to supplant earlier generations of analog and AMR technologies, shipments are showing different growth patterns across various geographies. The U.S. market continues to recede from the ARRA peak and momentum in the smart metering market is now shifting to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America.

In Europe, utilities are actively testing various advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technologies, and many European Union (EU) member states have signalled their commitment to embrace smart metering in compliance with the European legislation mandating deployment of smart meters where economically feasible. These states are now in the process of finalizing the regulatory framework for their respective national rollouts, which are to be completed by 2020.

"The regulatory work, in some cases, is taking longer than previously anticipated, and some stakeholders are afraid that the deadlines initially set at national levels may not be met," explained Petr Stabrawa, senior research analyst with IDC Energy Insights EMEA. "Despite the continuing political commitment to smart metering, these regulatory procrastinations, in combination with ongoing macroeconomic pressures, are currently holding the European smart metering market back."

As large smart meter tenders are not expected in the EU before the second half of 2013, global meter vendors are actively exploring new market opportunities in other geographic regions. In light of their rapidly increasing energy consumption, outdated energy infrastructure, and problems with energy loss/theft, the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) hold significant potential for the AMI industry. Facing stiff competition from local vendors that often enjoy long-standing relationships with domestic utilities, several global meter vendors have sought to build their position in these markets through local partnerships and specific product offerings.

Dean Chuang, senior research analyst with IDC Energy Insights, noted, "As the momentum in AMI deployments moves to less established markets, both utilities and the vendor community need to determine the best approach for each market. While each market and utility has different needs and a different level of smart grid ambition, there is ultimately a compromise between selecting an ideal customized solution and the costs of deviating from a standardized approach. This thought process can be observed when we compare TEPCO's recent tender to the AMI proposals coming out of Japan just 2-3 years prior."