The number of smart grids will grow to 212 million in 2012, up from 2009’s total of 76 million, according to ABI. Driving this growth in the U.S. is the recently granted stimulus funds that are going towards smart-grid projects. “In the US, $3.4 billion in federal economic stimulus funding was directed to smart grid development in November 2009,” said ABI practice director Sam Lucero. “The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (EISA 2007) directly encourages smart grid technology adoption by the states, and funds NIST’s efforts to develop a standards-based technology framework to facilitate smart grid adoption,” Lucero said. The U.S. stimulus program will create 18 million new smart meters, bringing the total up to 40 million, which will cover 31 percent of the nation’s housing units. When complete, this project is expected to reduce energy demand by 1,400 megawatts and increase the use of renewable resources by 20 percent in 2020.

“As momentum for infrastructure renewal grows, a number of factors are driving the process. High on the list are government regulators,” Lucero said.

While federal regulation will be the main driver in most countries, other drivers outlined by ABI are efficiency and reliability gains, environmental concerns, improved customer service, energy theft reduction and increasing competition on the energy market.

Currently, the biggest growth in smart meters is occurring in North America and Europe. Though no one is sure, it’s believed that China will soon be installing a significant number of smart meters.

“Although nothing is confirmed,” Lucero said, “it has been suggested that China will replace 300 million electricity meters over the next five or so years.”

By Mark Alvarez