Smart Grid Initiatives Poised for Growth

by | May 29, 2009

watergridThe U.S. market for smart-grid technologies is projected to reach nearly $17 billion by 2014, up from about $6.4 billion today, driven by an aging electric infrastructure, increasing demand for electricity, and a growing reliance on foreign fuel sources, according to a new study from Specialists in Business Information (SBI).

The study, called Smart Grid Technologies, Markets, Components and Trends Worldwide, finds that the U.S. smart-grid market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 21 percent through 2014, partly driven by the use of technologies that provide better sensing and control systems that maximize the use of electricity from renewable energy sources. Wind, solar, and other forms of renewable power are expected to be widely distributed across the U.S.; however, the country’s current electric grid is not equipped to  maximize the potential of these energy sources, according to the study.

New software products are making it possible to support cross-utility business processes that help utilities control and conserve power. For example, Oracle Utilities recently introduced smart-grid software designed to help utilities optimize the value of smart-grid components while working to complete a smart-grid build-out that leverages advances in IT, communications technology and energy technology, reports North American WindPower.

According to Oracle,  the software helps to accelerate and improve grid maintenance, enable compliance with regulatory changes and accommodate for emerging standards, together with unifying  information from various segments of the smart-grid network including service delivery, customer interaction and consumer energy usage.

Smart grids aren’t just for electricity infrastructure overhauls. Organizations are also working on emerging smart-water grid initiatives. As an example, the Water Innovations Alliance, and industry association promoting the adoption of water technologies, recently launched its Smart Water Grid Initiative. IBM joined the organization’s foundation board and will lead a subcommittee working on technology platforms, standards and methodologies to enable improved water management decisions.

The emerging water IT field is focused on delivering water from suppliers to consumers using digital technology to improve decision making, save energy, reduce cost and increase reliability and safety, with the goal to create a virtual water “grid” that cuts across all water supplies from natural ones such as rivers and aquifers, to municipal suppliers, according to the Water Innovations Alliance.

Today, about 1.1 billion people lack access to a reliable water supply, and 2.6 billion people lack access to adequate sanitation, according to the alliance. By 2025, the alliance estimates that over half the world’s population will live in water-stressed or water-scarce countries and that one quarter of global freshwater use exceeds local long-term accessible supplies.

Agricultural uses are said to be the biggest concerns, with an estimated 15 to 35 percent of irrigation withdrawals in excess of sustainable limits, and industrial withdrawals of water are expected to rise 55 percent by 2025. Aging water infrastructures are also contributing to the challenges. For example, cities such as Chicago are losing up to 60 percent of their water in transit from treatment facilities to faucets, according to the alliance.

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