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The worldwide installed base of smart meters will grow from 313 million this year to nearly 1.1 billion in 2022, according to a report by Navigant Research.

The research firm reports that growth in the smart electric meter market has cooled during the last year, even though strong market drivers remain in place on which utilities can build a business case.

Navigant says that although the direct operational and societal benefits of smart meters and the broader benefits of smart grids that are enabled by smart meters continue to be debated among policymakers, utilities, regulators and consumers, penetration rates continue to climb, reaching nearly 39% in North America in 2012.

According to Navigant, deployments in North America will begin to recover after 2014, although the pace of new shipments is unlikely to match the levels witnessed in the recent past. The growth in installed base will come primarily from medium-sized and smaller utilities that will shift to smart meters as they build business cases for upgrading their metering infrastructure, Navigant notes.

"It's safe to say that the smart meter market has reached its first post-frenzy era - but this is a lull, not a permanent slowdown," says Neil Strother, senior research analyst with Navigant. "The one major exception is China, where the national five-year plan involves not only new metering, but also major upgrades to transmission systems, distribution networks and generating capabilities."

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