Smart grid forecasts: energy storage, hydrokinetics, investments and more


By: SGN Staff


By Doug Peeples

SGN News Editor


It doesn't happen every day, but frequently reports from market research and consulting firms on smart grid trends and forecasts fall like winter snow in the Rockies. Many are relevant and sometimes eye-opening while others seem to simply confirm what we already know (or think we know). Here's a sampling of recent thinking on what's going to happen in a variety of smart grid sectors over the next few to several years.


Smart grid investments

A Zpryme survey reports that 8 out of 10 executives in the utility, smart grid and energy sectors believe that investments will continue to grow through 2012. "Utility investments will continue to increase because smart grid technology is the only rational long term strategy to manage the complex requirements of renewables integration, government regulation, emissions requirements and increased stakeholder demands," Phil Davis, senior manager at Schneider Electric Demand Response Resource Center told Zpryme.


But the report comes with some yellow caution tape: federal stimulus funding "has floated the smart grid thus far" and most of the executives surveyed said federal government support is "very important" to smart grid development. But as Jason S. Rodriguez, Zpryme CEO and research director put it, "The question now regarding the U.S. smart grid will be if sustainable growth can be achieved beyond 2012 as the government is likely to narrow its commitment to the future grid."


Building automation systems

It probably surprises no one that business is booming in building automation, but a new report from Pike Research says the market for building automation systems will double in the next 10 years, from $72.5 billion in 2011 to $146.4 billion by 2021. "Recent advances in automation technology, particularly relating to their integration with information and communication technologies, are dramatically increasing system capabilities and enabling deeper levels of energy management than ever before, thereby generating a surge in demand," said Eric Bloom, a Pike research analyst.

Energy storage

The Electricity Storage Association cites a report conducted by KEMA that forecasts "robust growth and lower cost throughout the energy storage market." The U.S. Grid Storage Market Study estimates from two and four gigawatts of energy storage could be developed, depending on the availability of financial incentives. Strong investment is expected to continue and demonstrations are expected to shift into full commercialization. In other study findings, mature technologies like thermal energy storage and pumped hydropower make up most of the energy storage market now, but advanced batteries and thermal technologies will present the largest growth opportunities in the near future.


Marine and hydrokinetic power

While it doesn't get much respect in the press, tidal energy is looking like a lower cost option than wave energy - and closest to large-scale deployment for that reason, according to Pike Research. While the UK is considered the global top dog in terms of supporting marine and hydrokinetic technologies, capacity is expected to show surprising growth in North America, from 760 megawatts in 2012 to 5.5 gigawatts as soon as 2017. That translates into $161.2 million in revenues in 2017.


The cleantech market research and consulting firm says the environment is good: better technologies and investments from energy companies and utilities are two contributors. Others include more lobbying power for industry associations, and governments are finishing up their deployment targets and cranking up competitive financial incentives. The big question for the industry now is if it can live up to its promise and become as successful as other renewable energy sectors.

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