Smart Grid

December 17, 2012

Operations Analytics is Grid's Next Big Growth Market

With an annual spend of $3.8 billion globally by 2020—and a cumulative spend of $20 billion over the next nine years—grid operations analytics will be the smart grid’s next big growth market, according to study findings just released by Boston-based GTM Research.

A secondary area of significant investment for utilities will be consumer analytics. The report, “The Soft Grid 2013-2020: Big Data & Utility Analytics for Smart Grid,” forecasts that U.S. utilities, alone, will spend nearly $100 per home in these two areas over the next nine years.

With smart meters and distribution sensors beginning to populate “big data” from every corner of their territories, utilities must seek out data analytics solutions capable of managing this incoming data and realizing the promise of the smart grid. Grid operations analytics covers the use of data related to asset management, crisis management, fault detection and outage management, weather/location data, mobile workforce management and energy theft, according to the analysts.

Consumer analytics will give utilities insights into areas such as customer behavior, tiered pricing, commercial and residential building management, load flow, distributed energy, electric vehicle charging and social media.  

“With the influx of big data, the potential of smart grid has shifted dramatically [away] from the original aim of adding a myriad of new devices toward a complete reinvention of the way utilities do business,” said President and Co-Founder of GTM Research Rick Thompson, adding, “We are now moving into a market where the spotlight will be on the data analytics software that will allow utilities to track, visualize and predict everything from grid operations to electricity consumption. These capabilities are the core elements of what GTM Research calls, the ‘Soft Grid.’”

Driving growth of the utility Soft Grid are data technologies, ranging from open-source data management platforms like Hadoop, to massively parallel processing (MPP) big data appliances, to predictive analytics now catching fire in every industry, to the cost improvements and enhanced performance of underlying data storage and infrastructure layer.

Supporting this technology shift will be a rich ecosystem of vendors. While the biggest names in IT are positioning themselves to be at the head of the class, it is becoming apparent that there will be several seminal companies that will be launched in this Soft Grid space, to which utilities will look for new products and services.GTM Research analyzes more than 60 vendors in this report and identifies the following companies and their technologies as potential market leaders in each segment of the Soft Grid market:

  • Analytics and applications: Opower, SAS, Space-Time Insight
  • Data infrastructure and storage: Cisco, IBM (News - Alert), VMware
  • Data management and movement: Accenture, IBM, SAS, Teradata

The rapid advent and spread of big data has come about due to low-cost data storage, abundant sensors, inexpensive processing, and new software platforms. Utilities have yet to capitalize on the true power of this data across all areas of the smart grid—from consumer analytics to grid operations. To date, they have used last-gen business intelligence (BI) reporting solutions, which they call “analytics,” but which typically amount to not much more than reporting tools or descriptive analytics; as opposed to the real-time and predictive analytics using complex event processing to which the term “analytics” is now commonly understood to refer.

GTM Research expects the lion’s share of spending on smart grid analytics will begin in the United States. Over time, Europe, Asia Pacific and Latin America will increase their spending on a percentage basis relative to the United States, but the analysts expect that America will account for 45 percent of the global market share in 2012, with Europe and Asia Pacific each taking 25 percent and Latin America claiming the remaining portion.

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