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According to a new report, steady growth is expected for the global substation automation market, which will increase from a $2.7 billion segment in 2012 to $4.3 billion in 2020.

Substation automation equipment - including communications, protective relays, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) devices, and related sensors - is a mature niche, says report author Pike Research, a part of Navigant's Energy Practice. But substation automation is increasingly permeating smart grid architecture, which is yielding a shift toward newly automated, smaller distribution substations and into retrofit modernizations transmission substations.

"Even as individual equipment costs and per-substation spending are declining due to technology advances and a shift to retrofits, we expect that the overall market will continue to grow," says Bob Gohn, Pike's chief research director.

"The smart grid trends driving automation deeper into the distribution network, combined with continued growth in Asia, will sustain steady growth in the overall substation automation sector," he adds.

Today, new transmission substations make up the largest segment of global substation automation revenue. According to the report, the segment is expected to peak in 2013 and 2014 and to slowly decline through 2020, yielding an effective compound annual growth rate of 0% for the period 2011-2020.

Retrofits of existing transmission substations, and automation of distribution substations, meanwhile, are forecast to grow at 7.1% and 7%, respectively, over the same period. By 2020, newly automated distribution substations will make up the largest application segment for substation automation equipment, the company says.

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