Smart meters and advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) have transformed a placid, 140-year old electricity metering market into a high-tech, high-growth juggernaut. In 2008, less than 4% of the global installed base of 1.5 billion electricity meters could be considered “smart,” but 4 years later this penetration has grown to over 18%, and is forecast to exceed 55% by 2020. Yet while global growth will continue, this remarkable rollout peaked in North America in 2011, and annual smart meter shipments are expected to decline sharply. According to a new report from Pike Research, unit shipments of smart meters in North America were 12.4 million in 2011 and will decline to 7.2 million by 2013, a 42% drop over just two years. After 2014, they will begin a gradual rise through the end of the decade.

“The global smart meter market is in the midst of a steady growth period, with unit shipments growing at a compound annual growth rate of just under 5% between 2010 and 2020,” says vice president Bob Gohn. “However, this high-level view obscures very dynamic and even volatile regional market characteristics, with dramatic shifts over the forecast period and very different communications technologies and standards. These swings make the market both enticing and challenging for smart meter and communications vendors.”

Pike Research’s analysis shows that, while the North American market faces dramatic near-term contraction, the European market is beginning a similarly dramatic growth period. The Asia Pacific region will continue to outpace all other regions, driven by major deployments in China, utilizing a different breed of smart meter technology. Smart meter penetration in Asia Pacific today is just over half the penetration rate in North America, while in Europe it is less than half. That will change over the next 8 years, as penetration rates reach 64% in Europe in 2020 and nearly 70% in Asia Pacific.