Utilities increase planning and budgets for smart grid adoption survey finds


Jon C. Arnold,
Managing Director for
Worldwide Power &
Utilities Industry,
Microsoft Corp
Houston, TX, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — March 15, 2011 – There was only a modest increase in the number of utilities moving past smart grid planning and into implementation over the past year, but the general industry expectation is that budgets to support these efforts are on the rise, according to Microsoft’s latest utility survey released last week.
The survey, which polled more than 210 professionals within electric, gas and related companies around the world, found that 39 percent of utilities were adopting smart grid technologies and 37 percent had plans in place or were in the process of drafting plans, and only 16 percent had not started any activities, while 8 percent claimed complete implementation.

Moreover, 73 percent expected their smart grid budget to increase over the next 2-3 years, while 21 percent expected it to the stay the same and 6 percent to decrease.

Nevertheless the main challenge moving forward with smart grid deployment was considered to be financial, cited by 27 percent, with the other main challenges being organizational, the lack of a comprehensive plan, and regulatory.

In terms of their importance to implementing a smart grid, distribution management systems, smart metering systems and the flexibility to adapt to new or future technologies were rated as the most important. However, consumer energy management solutions were only rated as “very important” by less than half of the respondents.

More than a third of the respondents also said their company has an enterprise-wide information and technology architecture to structure current and future smart grid deployments, while a similar number said such an architecture was under consideration, and they were evenly split on whether their customer information system (CIS) would need to be completely restructured or would be minimally changed.

Finally more than half expected their customers’ bills to become more complex, and almost half expected that their organization would need to be significantly restructured to achieve the vision of a fully integrated smart grid.

“Our study clearly indicates the hype cycle is over, and more utilities today are planning smart grid implementations,” said Jon C. Arnold, managing director for the Worldwide Power & Utilities Industry at Microsoft Corp. “We’re seeing a normal phenomenon occur in terms of the evolution of thinking about these projects. Utilities are finding out what they don’t know, and they are, naturally, exerting some caution before making big investments, even though the willingness to spend is there.”