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The global installed base of smart meters for distribution automation (DA) applications will grow from fewer than 10 million this year to 143.2 million by 2020, according to a new report from Navigant Research.

As initial smart grid programs begin to wind down and the sector as a whole matures, the report says utilities are increasingly shifting their focus from the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) technology to DA applications that can reduce both capital and operating costs, as well as improve the efficiency and quality of the power grid. The integration of DA systems and applications with AMI systems is expected to help utilities increase the financial benefits from their smart grid investments, the report adds.

“As new generations of communications technology are deployed in AMI networks, utilities are learning and planning how to more efficiently integrate AMI and DA systems and how to overcome the challenges that remain,” says Richelle Elberg, senior research analyst with Navigant Research.

“By the end of the decade, AMI/DA integration will likely be the standard in new smart grid deployments - but it will take longer to update the existing installed base,” Elberg continues.

According to the report, primary obstacles to the efficient integration of AMI and DA systems can be found in the number of differing communications networks that have been used in existing AMI deployments - particularly in terms of their latency and throughput - as well as in the lack of protocol standards and interoperable devices.

Looking ahead, Navigant Research believes that vendors and standards bodies will overcome many of these obstacles and true integration will occur - but it will take time, and some early-adopter utilities may find that existing AMI communications systems do not lend themselves to full integration, the study concludes.

For more information on the Navigant Research report, click here.




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