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The global market for transmission and substation automation supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) equipment will grow steadily over the remainder of this decade, with worldwide shipments of SCADA-related devices totaling more than 3 million from 2012 to 2020, according to a report from Pike Research.

The report says the ultimate question about substation and feeder automation is what platforms, applications and communications protocols are required to support the smart grid initiatives being planned and undertaken by utilities in the coming years.

For the past decade, the major focus has been on pilot programs and test sites deploying various technologies to compare and contrast their effectiveness in real-world situations.

The global utility market is now on the threshold of emerging from this pilot-program stage and stepping into large-scale implementations, the report adds. Those vendors that catch the leading edge of this transition with solid solutions for the winning methodologies will be in an enviable position, ready and able to help utilities deploy the next phase of smart grid installations, according to Pike Research.

The results of the pilot programs are being analyzed, and the report predicts R&D investment choices made today will have a big impact on which companies emerge as the new leaders in smart grid automation.

Because North America and Europe continue to follow different philosophies of substation automation design, the report says substation server and gateway usage will likely be quite different in those regions.

Globally, most countries are following the European model, though South Africa, Australia and New Zealand have a unique mixture of the two systems, Pike Research notes.

The IEC 61850 protocol is gaining momentum worldwide, but the report says there are still questions about its appropriateness for distribution substation automation projects. Citing technical issues that limit its use for the leading feeder automation applications, some countries with a high focus on distribution-level automation are less likely to adopt the new standard quickly, the report adds.

A growing community of users is advocating and deploying DNP3.0 with Generic Object Oriented Substation Events as a more practical alternative. Pike Research says early signs also suggest that the ongoing debate between centralized and distributed automation for technical loss control may be leaning toward a centralized approach, although the firm expects a hybrid approach to prevail for a few more years.

As infrastructure needs continue to vary between developing and developed countries, the focus on transmission-level automation and distribution-level automation varies from place to place, the report adds.

As a whole, the report says the global smart grid SCADA systems market for transmission and distribution substation and associated distribution feeder automation applications is healthy and growing, though there is significant variability in growth opportunities by application, by region and device types.

Pike Research expects overall global revenue to maintain a 7% compound annual growth rate from 2012 to 2020, with distribution network applications exhibiting a higher growth rate opportunity over transmission substation equipment.

The global market for smart grid SCADA equipment is diverse and dynamic, with opportunities available across each world region, the report adds.

For more information on the report, click here.

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