Study: Recovery Act boosts electricity demand, helps modernize grid

The U.S. government's initiatives to reduce carbon emissions have increased the demand for electricity

Mar 24th, 2011

Mountain View, Calif., March 25, 2011 — The U.S. government's initiatives to reduce carbon emissions have increased the demand for electricity. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act announced $4.5 billion in stimulus grants to modernize the nation's electrical grid. To qualify for these smart grid stimulus grants, applicants were required to, at least, match federal funding for their projects.

New analysis from Frost and Sullivan, North American Substation Integration and Automation Market, finds that the market earned revenues of $392 million in 2009 and estimates this to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.1 percent between 2009 and 2016.

"With the inclusion of matching funds, the investments in the smart grid projects should be well over $8 billion," notes Frost & Sullivan senior research analyst Vignesh Sundaram. "These investments are expected to spread over at least for two years period."

Although announced in 2009, the stimulus money allocated to projects has started only during 2010. Moreover, the electric vehicles, touted as the future of the transport industry, are likely to burden the present infrastructure further. Many utilities are aware of this situation and expect to drive the market for substation integration and automation in the future.

Most utilities do not have adequate skilled resources to help the substation comply with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation critical infrastructure protocol standards. In particular, there is a dearth of resources required to operate the enhanced automation in substation.

Competition in the market has intensified, with the tier-one manufacturers offering turnkey solutions, which pressurizes companies that work only as system integrators to compete effectively. With big corporations possessing the capacity to provide customized projects and the system integrators competing for business, the market is gravitating toward leaner distribution network.

The plethora of opportunities notwithstanding, energy market participants see challenges to secure the electric grid from cyber attacks, as there has been an increase in the breaching of the cyber security from 2008.

"The NERC, overseen by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), requires companies to designate 'critical cyber assets'," said Sundaram. "This makes it mandatory for utilities to implement the CIP."

Security for an older substation that is vulnerable to cyber attacks needs enhancing. The security measures must seek to prevent infringement of the electric system. With the demand for electricity consumption expected to increase and the higher need to connect the renewable power to the grid, there is considerable market potential for the new substation installations.

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