Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) devices are key elements of the emerging smart grid. SCADA devices perform a wide range of data collection, sharing, and coordinated control actions that make the electricity system more efficient and reliable. According to a new report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant’s Energy Practice, the global market for transmission and substation automation SCADA equipment will grow steadily over the remainder of this decade, with worldwide shipments totaling more than 3 million devices from 2012 to 2020. Outfitting distribution substation and feeder projects are expected to lead this growth, with strong contributions from transmission upgrade projects.

“While the digital substation control market has been evolving for 40 years, the market drivers are changing dramatically,” says research director Carol Stimmel. “Previously, solutions were differentiated by the features they provided to utilities. Today, productivity tools, ease of use, and customer service are key. Vendors that provide advanced configuration, coordination, and the ability to implement system-wide changes in a cost-effective and timely manner will succeed in this market.”

Differing philosophies of substation automation design mean that technology and adoption models will likely vary widely across regions. The IEC 61850 protocol is gaining momentum worldwide, but questions remain about its appropriateness for distribution substation automation projects, and some countries with a high focus on distribution-level automation are less likely to adopt the new standard quickly, according to the report. Early signs also suggest that the ongoing debate between centralized and distributed automation for technical loss control may be leaning toward a centralized approach, although a hybrid approach is expected to prevail for a few more years.