Cumulative global investment in smart grids, including smart meter implementations as well as upgrades to the transmission and distribution infrastructure, will approach $46 billion by 2015, according to the latest forecasts from ABI Research.

Larry Fisher, research director of NextGen, the ABI Research unit that published this study, said, “Most of the electric utility infrastructure deployed in the industrialized world was built between 60 and 80 years ago. Much of this infrastructure is outdated, and with the continuing increase in demand for power year after year, the grid cannot safely and reliably manage the loads of today and tomorrow without significant upgrades.”

The groundwork for smart grids has been laid in a number of countries over the past several years, but the pace of investment and implementation is increasing. Fisher notes, “Transmission and distribution investments will account for the lion’s share of smart grid investments through 2015; on a cumulative basis, a total of almost $41 billion will be invested globally in the electrical transmission and distribution infrastructure through 2015, compared to $4.8 billion for the purchase and installation of smart meters. This infrastructure spending will focus on grid automation and control, distribution automation, distributed generation and demand response programs.”

ABI Research’s new study Smart Grid Applications: Smart Meters, Demand Response, and Distributed Generation forecasts the market for smart grid equipment and services for the 2010-2015 period, covering North America, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, and selected other countries.

It provides the outlook for smart meter installations, as well as the spending associated with them. It also examines and forecasts spending on smart grid-related transmission and distribution infrastructure, as well as implementation of specific smart grid-related components at the utility level, such as synchrophasors and HAN communication chipsets.