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A new Zpryme report, sponsored by Schneider Electric and based on a survey of 83 U.S. utility executives, reveals that 76% of utilities are planning to procure grid data analytics software and would most prefer solutions integrated into an advanced distribution management system (DMS).

The report, titled "2013 U.S. Grid Automation Report," probes overall U.S. utility executive sentiment on how grid automation is being used to improve asset management utilization, power quality and system reliability. Zpryme says that while the benefits of the smart grid continue to become realized in the U.S., the commitment by utilities to further grid automation is already being felt to help minimize outage times, improve customer service and manage capital costs.

"Conversely, utilities will need solid support from vendors, integrators and regulators to truly utilize all of the technologies' benefits," notes Jason S. Rodriguez, CEO and director of research at Zpryme.

Zpryme executive survey data also revealed the following:

- Six out of 10 respondents are very or highly likely to use a major equipment vendor to provide initial system configuration services for grid automation. The main reasons cited for not using a major equipment vendor for initial system configuration were service-level agreement concerns for support, desire to perform "in-house" and relationships with existing integrators.

- Forty-three percent of respondents described their approach to fund a distribution equipment life extension program as retro-filling existing equipment with new breakers/switches. Thirty-seven percent said they would use new equipment, and 20% said they would refurbish existing equipment. Utilities cited availability of capital funding and downtime (outage) considerations as the main reasons they chose their approach for their equipment life extension program.

- About one out of five (22%) respondents indicated that a high penetration of renewable energy is expected to cause significant problems on their distribution system.

- Eighteen percent of respondents indicated that a high penetration of electric vehicle charging is expected to cause significant problems on their distribution system.

- Just over four out of 10 (44%) respondents chose a commercial and industrial customer-oriented demand response program as their most preferred demand management option. Another 25% chose a grid-oriented solution, such as volt/VAR or conservation voltage reduction. Eighteen percent chose a residential customer-oriented program.

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