IMS Research forecasts the market for equipment supporting smart grid communications and networking to grow from $700 million in 2011 to nearly $950 million by 2016. This growth is projected even as smart meter shipments are forecast to decline from 2012 onward in North America and general economic growth remains elusive.
Smart metering projects in the mid- to late-2000s propelled North America’s market for radios and other networking hardware supporting feeder line tasks. Later growth in distribution automation intelligent electronic device (IED) shipments furthered this trend, supporting opportunity for traditional serial radios as well as a wide assortment of next generation solutions. As of 2012, smart meter rollouts are slowing in North America, however, substation modernization, distribution automation, and Latin America’s expected smart metering expansion will all counter this slowing to offer substantial total growth of smart grid networking equipment markets in the Americas.
Senior Analyst Donald Henschel comments: “Smart metering is only beginning in Latin America, but perhaps more interestingly, in North America, utilities are seeing increased efforts from AMI solution providers and grid automation specialists to effectively integrate smart meter data and infrastructure into more sophisticated distribution automation tasks. Distribution automation-enabled smart meter concentrators will hasten this process.”
The supplier environment for smart grid automation and networking is in a dynamic period, with major substation networking supplier RuggedCom recently purchased by Siemens, and smart grid mesh radio provider Tropos acquired by ABB. Both ABB and Siemens offer deep catalogs of grid automation solutions, but their market presence in the Americas has not been as high as in other regional markets.
“These acquisitions of networking and communications specialists by global automation brands reveal industry acknowledgement of networking as the next critical step to achieving the goals of the smart grid evolution,” Henschel notes.