Investment in smart grid technology grew steadily last year — report

Source: Nathanael Massey, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 1, 2013

Global investment in smart grid technology rose 7 percent in 2012, according to a new report by the Worldwatch Institute, buoyed by the growing presence of renewables in the energy mix and the integration of new technologies into infrastructure upgrades. World markets saw $13.9 billion invested in smart grid technology.

The United States remains the lead investor in smart grids, though its investments fell last year to $4.3 billion, from $5.1 billion in 2011. China, in second place, appears to be closing the gap, increasing its smart grid spending 14 percent to $3.2 billion.

Much of the early investment has been in smart metering, which many experts consider a fundamental first step in advancing other smart grid technologies. Smart meters allow customers to monitor and adjust their consumption of electricity, or cycle power usage during peak periods through demand-response programs.

Currently, about a third of American households employ smart meters. According to utility plans, that number should rise to more than half by 2015, the report notes.

A European Union directive mandates that 80 percent of E.U. households deploy smart meters by 2020. Currently, its ratio is closer to 10 percent.

The growth of investment in smart meter technology has been steadier than that of wind and solar. Solar investment rose steeply last year, 36 percent over 2011. Global wind power investment fell 17 percent due to a drop in price in raw materials and the resulting glut in supply