Driven by legislative incentives in the United States, government policy mandates in Europe, economic and system reliability concerns in Latin America, and an aggressive deployment program in China, the smart meter market has grown substantially over the last four years. Many aggressive utility deployments are now reaching their conclusions, and annual smart meter shipments in some regions, including North America, are expected to decline significantly in the next few years. According to a recent report from Pike Research, a part of Navigant’s Energy Practice, however, the number of installed smart meters worldwide will continue to climb steadily through the remainder of this decade, reaching 960 million by 2020.

“The slowdown in smart meter rollouts in North America, where unit shipments are expected to drop by 42 percent between 2011 and 2013, will be overshadowed by growth in Europe and Asia Pacific, particularly China,” says senior research analyst Neil Strother. “Growth in China is occurring much earlier and faster than anticipated, even if debate continues on whether these meters fully meet the definition of a smart meter. Deployments in Europe will finally begin their growth phase in the middle part of the decade, resulting in a compound annual growth rate for the worldwide smart meter market of just under 5 percent between 2010 and 2020.”

While the smart meter market has undergone significant change and expansion, the meter vendor industry has also been in flux, undergoing increasing globalization and consolidation. Many of the incumbent vendors have globalized their businesses, via either acquisition or organic development, and have sought expansion capital to support their efforts. Some have turned to the public capital markets, while others have raised new funding by selling an ownership stake to outside investors. The most striking of these is Landis+Gyr, which was acquired by the Japanese industrial conglomerate Toshiba in the spring of 2011.