Global smart electricity meter installed base to double by 2016

By the end of 2016, the global installed base of advanced electricity meters is expected to double, according to a new market study from IMS Research, part of IHS Inc., titled The World Market for Smart Electricity Meters – 2012 Edition. This is forecast to propel the installed base of communicating meters to almost 35 percent penetration globally.

At the close of 2011, just under 18 percent of the roughly 1.43 billion installed meters were communicating. These meters ranged from older one-way AMR (Advanced Meter Reading) style technology to GPRS (cellular) enabled C&I meters (commercial and industrial), to residential smart two-way meters.

From 2012 onwards a mixture of fixed network technologies are anticipated to be installed worldwide, ranging from simpler RS485-wired types to next generation smart two-way PLC-OFDM meters.

IMS Research lead analyst Michael Markides comments: “In 2011 the market for advanced meters reached new heights; North American shipments remained strong, while shipments to China and Spain began in earnest. Largely due to these factors it is estimated that global advanced meter shipments in 2011 were double those of 2010.”

He continues :“However, average annual shipments from 2012 through 2014 are expected to remain at this level, only growing significantly once more in 2015 when expected European advanced metering projects go online.”

While the markets of North America and Western Europe are mostly understood, in the long term the continued growth of the global smart meter market is highly dependent on developing economies such as China, Brazil and India.

Of these three regions, China is currently the only significant market for advanced meters. In 2011, some 40 million advanced electricity meters were shipped here. However, most were simple wired RS485 meters utilizing one-way communications. The adoption of these simpler communicating meters reflects the difference in drivers in China when compared to Western Europe and North America.

Rather than focusing on next-generation functionality such as voltage optimisation or demand response, utilities here are more concerned with energy theft through meter tampering or bribes to readers.

Brazil, India, and many other developing countries face similar challenges and may also see the need for simpler one-way style communicating meters to be installed in order to curtail non-technical losses.

Markides concludes, “In the next five years, most developed countries and industrialising, developing nations will have thriving advanced electricity meter markets. Whether installed to save on labour costs, work in conjunction with other smart grid schemes, or curtail non-technical losses, utilities worldwide are accelerating their adoption of smart metering.”

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