Utility firms lack clarity on smart grids

Utility firms need guidance on future smart grid technology developments to boost commercial network deployments, a regular Microsoft study finds.
Almost two thirds of the 210 executives surveyed admitted they lack clarity on what IT infrastructure to deploy in current and future smart grids, as they seek to balance the need to protect investment in current networks with the need to deploy upgrades in the coming years.
As a result, the number of utility firms planning to launch commercial smart grid networks in 2011 is up just 8% on the previous survey.
However, the latest study shows the industry is gearing up to move beyond the planning phase, with 73% of respondents believing that launch budgets are increasing. Almost the same number – 72% - think distribution management is the most important element in a smart grid, with 60% anticipating rises to budgets for distribution and energy management technologies.
Management is becoming increasingly important as new services and markets emerge, according to 50% of those surveyed. Utility firms are looking to adapt to services including interval billing, electric cars, and new energy programs.
“We’re seeing a normal phenomenon occur in terms of the evolution of thinking about these projects,” Jon Arnold, managing director of Microsoft’s Worldwide Power & Utilities Industry division notes, adding. “Utilities are finding out what they don’t know, and they are, naturally, exerting some caution before making big investments, even though the willingness to spend is there.”