The number of smart electricity meters installed worldwide is expected to double between 2011 and 2016, rising from about 257m to more than 510m, according to a new study from IMS Research.
At the end of 2011, just less than 18% of the world’s 1.43 billion electricity meters were able to communicate, says IMS, but this proportion will reach almost 35% in 2016.
While today’s smart meters include a range of technologies – including older one-way AMR (advanced meter reading) systems, GPRS, enabled C&I (commercial and industrial) and residential two-way meters – a mixture of fixed network technologies are also expected to come into use over the next few years.
These include simpler RS485-wired types as well as next-generation smart two-way PLC-OFDM meters.
“In 2011 the market for advanced meters reached new heights; North American shipments remained strong, while shipments to China and Spain began in earnest,” said Michael Markides, a lead analyst at IMS. “Largely due to these factors it is estimated that global advanced meter shipments in 2011 were double those of 2010.”
“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,” he said.
IMS reckons the continued growth of the global smart meter market is highly dependent on developing economies, such as China, Brazil and India.
At the moment, China is the only one of these economies where the market for smart meters is significant, with shipments of about 40m meters in 2011.
Even then, most of the meters were simple wired RS485 meters using one-way communications.
While utilities in Western Europe and North America are mainly concerned with next-generation functionality, such as voltage optimization or demand response, those in China see energy theft – through meter tampering or bribes – as a bigger priority.
Brazil, India and many other developing countries face similar challenges and might also see greater need for simpler one-way style communicating meters to be installed in order to curtail non-technical losses.
“In the next five years, most developed countries and industrializing, developing nations will have thriving advanced electricity meter markets,” said Markides. “Whether installed to save on labor costs, work in conjunction with other smart grid schemes, or curtail non-technical losses, utilities worldwide are accelerating their adoption of smart metering.”