DC distribution networks – anticipated spend


New standards and innovation at the medium voltage level are needed to propel this market further

Navigant Research predicts that global spending on DC distribution networks will grow from the current $11 billion per annum spend to exceed $40 billion.

The market for DC distribution networks encompasses disparate opportunities that revolve around different market assumptions, dynamics, and drivers, yet common challenges exist across its segments.

Among these are a lack of standards and open grid architectures that can help integrate the increasing diversity of resources being plugged into retail power grids, as well as an innovation gap in the medium voltage level of electricity service (roughly 240V – 400V) needed for many microgrids and building-scale nanogrids.

Despite the challenges, the total annual DC distribution network implementation spending is expected to grow from more than $11 billion today to $48.4 billion in 2027.

“To build a better market for DC distribution grid infrastructure, new standards will need to be in place to allow competing vendors to design products that can plug into common DC service delivery frameworks,” says Peter Asmus, research director with Navigant Research.

“Only by stepping up DC to medium voltage ranges can the current be sustained to travel over sufficient distances to create a distribution network the scale of a microgrid. This is a distribution network where DC offers immense resiliency and modularity benefits.”

As much as 80% of loads in commercial and residential structures are now natively DC, according to some estimates. Given the enormous political and policy support for inverter-based native DC power sources such as solar PV and batteries, there is growing momentum among technology vendors making the argument to reduce DC-AC-DC conversion losses and integrate DC distribution networks into the existing power supply infrastructure.

An even more convincing argument can be made to develop new DC distribution networks where there is no incumbent AC infrastructure, such as is the case with telecom towers and energy access initiatives in the developing world.

The report, Direct Current Distribution Networks, analyses the global market for DC distribution networks in six key segments: remote cell towers, commercial buildings, data centres, energy access programs, military, and EV fast charging systems.

The study examines the market issues, including DC power trends and business cases (for DC and AC), related to DC distribution networks. Global market forecasts, broken out by segment, voltage level, and region, extend through 2027.

An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Navigant Research website.