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Enabling Technologies for the Smart Grid

  • September 2013
  • 158 pages
  • BCC Research
Report ID: 118580


Table of Contents


This report provides:
An overview of the US market for smart grid, with coverage of the evolution and inspiration through biomimetics and bioinspired designs.
Analyses of US market trends, with data from 2012, estimates for 2013 and projections of compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) through 2018.
Discussion of techniques, and properties such as two-way integrated communications, sensing and measurement, advanced components.
Examination of advanced control that enables rapid diagnosis of and precise solutions to specific grid disruptions or outages.
Summary of results of targeted interviews with producers and users of smart grid technologies.


The century-old U.S. electrical grid has been called the largest interconnected machine on earth. It consists of more than 9,200 electric-generating units with more than 1,000,000 MW of generating capacity, connected to more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines. Several years ago, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering voted the national electrification made possible by this grid as the “most significant engineering achievement of the 20th century.”However, the grid is showing its age. There have been massive blackouts in recent years, including the 2003 Northeast blackout, the worst in the nation’s history. Although it was accidental, the 2003 blackout was a reminder of the grid’s vulnerability to terrorist attack. And this blackout was foreshadowed by a troubling trend: According to the Department of Energy, 41% more outages affected 50,000 or more consumers in the second half of the 1990s than in the first half of the decade. The “average” outage affected 15% more consumers from 1996 to 2000 than from 1991 to 1995 (409,854 versus 355,204).Regular power outages and blackouts cost the U.S. economy between $80 billion and $188 billion annually, according to a recent University of Minnesota study. The figure reflects only direct losses to the economy, and does not take into account the inconvenience and frustration experienced by users during a power outage.In addition to growing concerns about the U.S. electric grid’s robustness and reliability, the grid was designed and built with one basic objective in mind — keeping the lights on. Meanwhile, other concerns have become increasingly important in the political and public dialogue about the status and future of the electrical grid, particularly:
Energy efficiency
Environmental impacts
Consumer choice.
Governments and utilities in the U.S. and elsewhere are investing in new technologies in order to build a 21st-century grid that:
Runs more efficiently
Generates higher-quality power
Resists attack
Is self-healing
Enables consumers to manage their energy use better and reduce costs
Integrates decentralized generation (e.g., renewable energy) and storage (such as fuel cell) technologies.
In addition to meeting the need for reliable, high-quality power, these technologies are intended to meet the economy’s energy needs as efficiently as possible, optimizing energy consumption and related environmental impacts such as greenhouse gas emissions.These technologies are often referred to generically as smart grid technologies. Smart grid describes a set of related technologies, rather than specific technology with a generally agreed-on specification. These technologies fall into five main areas:
Two-way integrated communications: allow for real-time control, information and data exchange to optimize system reliability, asset utilization, and security
Sensing and measurement: evaluate congestion and grid stability, congestion and grid stability, monitor equipment health, detect energy theft, and support control strategies support
Advanced components: flexible alternating current transmission system devices, high-voltage direct current, first- and second-generation superconducting wire, high-temperature superconducting cable, distributed energy generation and storage devices, composite conductors, and “intelligent” appliances
Advanced control that enables rapid diagnosis of and precise solutions to specific grid disruptions or outages
Improved interfaces and decision support that reduce complexity so that operators and managers have tools to effectively and efficiently operate a grid with increasing numbers of variables.


This report is an update of an earlier BCC report with the same title that was published in early 2011. Since then, there have been important developments that have the potential to affect the development of the smart grid. A growing number of investor- and publicly-owned utilities have been investing in smart grid projects. Large corporate players such as Google, IBM, GE, and Cisco are showing increasing interest in the smart grid; and there has been a significant increase in the amount of venture capital flowing into smart grid–related investments.On the negative side, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, with its billions of dollars of investments in smart grid technologies, has ended, The slow recovery of the U.S. economy from the 2008 and 2009 recession has dampened the growth of the smart grid, for example, by making it harder for utilities and suppliers to obtain credit, making the weighted average cost of capital higher, and impacting the discounting of costs and benefits in the business case. Regulators in some states (e.g., Maryland and Oklahoma) have rejected utilities’ smart grid proposals, arguing that consumers were expected to bear too much of the cost and risk and that potential returns do not justify the cost.In view of these developments, BCC believes that an update of the earlier report is timely. The overall goal of updating this report is to reassess the business opportunities for providers of smart grid technologies that will arise over the next 5 years as products utilizing these technologies increase their market penetration. In support of this goal, specific objectives of the report include:
Identifying the smart grid technologies with the greatest commercial potential over the next 5 years (2013 to 2018)
Estimating the market for these technologies in 2012
Analyzing the technical, economic, and other demand drivers for these products, and other prerequisites of success in these markets
Projecting the potential U.S. markets for these technologies through 2018
Analyzing macro-level political and economic forces that are helping to shape the market for smart grid technologies.


The report is intended especially for providers of smart grid technologies and products based on these technologies. Although the report is structured around specific technologies, it is largely nontechnical in nature. That is, it is concerned less with theory and jargon than with what works, how much of the latter the market is likely to purchase, and at what price.As such, the report’s main audience is executive management, marketing, and financial analysts. It is not written specifically for scientists and technologists, although its findings concerning the market for their work, including the availability of government and corporate research funding for different technologies and applications should interest them as well.Others who should find the report informative include government agencies, environmental, and public policy interest groups with an interest in energy, the environment, and sustainable development in general.


The study covers the major enabling technologies for the smart grid, including:
Communications technologies
Sensing and measurement technologies
Advanced components
Control technologies
Interface and decision support technologies.
The study format includes the following major elements:
Executive summary
Benefits of smart grids
Smart grid “roadmap”
Policy, regulatory, and economic environment for the transition to a smart grid
Enabling technologies for the smart grid
Developers and suppliers of smart grid–enabling technologies
Baseline (2012) and projected market for smart grid technologies through 2018
Patent analysis.


The report is based on the results of targeted interviews with producers and users of smart grid technologies, complemented by a thorough literature review and BCC’s internal databases. The base year for analysis and projection is 2012.With 2012 as a baseline, market projections were developed through 2018. These projections are based on a combination of a consensus among the primary contacts combined with BCC’s understanding of the key market drivers and their impact from an historical and analytical perspective.The methodologies and assumptions used to develop the market estimates and projections are described in detail in the chapters on smart grid markets. That way, readers can see how the market estimates were developed and, if they so desire, test the impact on the final numbers of changing assumptions such as price.

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