Distribution automation a top priority for smart grid utilities

ARC Advisory Group's study shows utilities are putting a higher emphasis on adding intelligence and control capabilities to distribution infrastructure to meet growing demand and save energy overall.


Forecast of electric power distribution automation from 2011-2016. China's investment in smart grid technology is expected to account for a great deal of the industry's growth and evolution. Courtesy: ARC Advisory GroupThe Distribution Automation System market has become a top priority for smart grid utilities, across the board and around the world. In recent years, advanced metering infrastructure and demand response were the darlings of the industry, but now the utilities are turning their attention to improving efficiency and control in the distribution segment of the grid that lies between the substation and the meter. 

Besides the tangible benefits of improving reliability and efficiency within grid operations, distribution automation system implementations and upgrades have another important attribute — the ability to deliver strong return on investment without requiring extensive consumer engagement or behavior change.  In a nutshell, utilities are placing increased emphasis on adding greater intelligence and control capabilities to their distribution infrastructure. 

Sovereign investment programs are focused on the expansion of capacity in emerging markets, upgrading of aging transmission and distribution infrastructure, and improvement of reliability and efficiency.  

“The Electric Power Distribution Automation System market is being driven by the world’s continued demand for more energy as utilities are faced with the challenges of realizing a good ROI while providing a higher level of service to their customers.  These challenges drive the need to conserve energy (specifically the energy lost in the distribution network), defer the building of additional generation facilities, and improve customer service,” according to Steve Clouther, the author of ARC’s “Electric Power Distribution Automation Systems Worldwide Outlook."

Distribution Automation System Providers

The distribution automation systems market has a diverse group of players and market share leaders, even though the typical range of a distribution network is relatively short; i.e., a distribution network carries electricity from a sub-station to consumers.  

The market leaders for worldwide distribution automation are subsidiaries and/or divisions of large international control companies with an expansive global presence.  Collectively, the top ten vendors account for 71 percent of the 2011 worldwide distribution automation systems market. 

China Is “All In” on the Smart Grid

At the 2011 Smart Grid World Forum in Beijing (October 2011), China’s State Grid Corporation announced plans to invest $250 billion in electric power infrastructure upgrades over the next five years, of which $45 billion is earmarked for smart grid technologies.  According to its three-stage plan, China will invest another $240 billion between 2016 and 2020 (including another $45 billion toward smart grid technologies) to complete the build-out of a “stronger, smarter” Chinese power grid.

China to Be a Driving Force in Distribution Automation

According to the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) World Energy Outlook 2011, by 2015 China will overtake the US, and become the leader in total electric power generation capacity. By 2035, China will consume nearly 70 percent more energy than the United States. With explosive growth such as this, China leads the way in distribution automation.

ARC Advisory Group


- Edited by Chris Vavra, Control Engineering, www.controleng.com 

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