As the smart grid has evolved, most of the media and public focus has been on consumer-facing products and technologies, such as smart meters, automated metering, and home energy management systems. While those areas will continue to be important, a new study from Pike Research finds that utilities are placing increased emphasis on adding greater intelligence and control capabilities to their distribution infrastructure. During the period from 2010 to 2015, the cleantech market intelligence firm forecasts that worldwide utility investment in distribution automation (DA) will total $46 billion, with a robust growth in spending over the next few years.

“Distribution automation is emerging as the next hot topic in the smart grid industry,” says senior analyst Bob Gohn. “For utilities, DA deployments can yield significant cost savings through measurable improvements in operational efficiency, reliability, service quality, and energy conservation – all of which can contribute to customer satisfaction. In many cases, we expect that DA will yield stronger return on investment than smart meters or other high-profile smart grid initiatives.”

Gohn adds that the largest category for DA spending will be distribution switchgear, which includes upgraded distribution transformers, reclosers, sectionalizers, disconnect switches, and fused cutout switches. Pike Research anticipates that switchgear will represent 53% of distribution automation spending during the 2010-2015 forecast period. Other key DA categories will include Volt/VAR optimization; fault detection, isolation, and recovery (FDIR); and feeder protection and control.

Pike Research’s report, Distribution Automation, forecasts the size and growth of the worldwide distribution automation market by region and technology segment through 2015. The report analyzes market factors and technology issues that affect the DA market’s growth, and it addresses the key applications producing benefits and value for utility customers. Detailed profiles are also included for prominent utilities, industry vendors, and other players involved in the DA ecosystem.