As initial smart grid programs begin to wind down and the sector as a whole matures, utilities are increasingly shifting their focus from the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology to distribution automation (DA) applications that can reduce both capital and operating costs, as well as improve the efficiency and quality of the power grid.
The integration of DA systems and applications with AMI systems is expected to help utilities increase the financial benefits from their smart grid investments. According to a new report from Navigant Research, the global installed base of smart meters for distribution automation applications will grow from fewer than 10 million in 2013 to 143.2 million by 2020.
“As new generations of communications technology are deployed in AMI networks, utilities are learning and planning how to more efficiently integrate AMI and DA systems, and how to overcome the challenges that remain,” says Richelle Elberg, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “By the end of the decade, AMI/DA integration will likely be the standard in new smart grid deployments—but it will take longer to update the existing installed base.”
The primary obstacles to the efficient integration of AMI and DA systems can be found in the number of differing communications networks that have been used in existing AMI deployments – particularly in terms of their latency and throughput – as well as in the lack of protocol standards and interoperable devices.
Looking ahead, Navigant Research believes that vendors and standards bodies will overcome many of these obstacles and true integration will occur—but it will take time, and some early-adopter utilities may find that existing AMI communications systems do not lend themselves to full integration, the study concludes.
The report, “AMI and Distribution Automation Integration”, examines the opportunities and challenges faced by utilities seeking to integrate AMI and DA systems with the smart grid. The study provides an overview of the current state of the global AMI and DA markets, as well as a review of the communications networking technologies employed in each.
Various DA applications appropriate for integration with AMI systems and their communications networks are also analyzed. Global market forecasts of components of AMI/DA integration, including smart meters for DA applications and integrated routers, extend through 2020. The report also provides a general outlook for AMI/DA integration and profiles of key market participants. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.