Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Smart grid sensor market to increase tenfold by 2021, says IHS

Steve Rogerson
April 1, 2015
The smart grid sensor market is roughly doubling in size every two years and revenues are expected to increase tenfold from 2014 to 2021, according to a report from IHS Technology, which found the market to be centred mainly in North America, where there is a mixture of a few large installations and many smaller pilot projects. By 2021, it expects the market to reach $350m.
Last year, however, IHS observed a series of larger contracts being reviewed in North America, while markets in other global regions also showed signs of potential adoption. A pressing need to monitor the grid in real time exists, and utilities are expected to gain greater value by installing modern smart grid sensors, which can greatly improve utility operations and performance.
While still a fairly nascent market in North America, the larger tenders for smart grid sensors support the positive outlook forecast by IHS. The US market is estimated to reach $30m in 2014; however, annual growth from 2015 to 2021 is expected to average 36 per cent.
“The USA has been on the forefront of smart grid sensor market development,” said Fizza Arshad, market analyst with IHS. “Many factors have converged to make this happen, but one of the stronger influences was the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009.”
The ARRA provided the investment needed to install extensive grid distribution-layer communications networks. Having affordable, ubiquitous communications networks is essential to making the smart grid sensor story emerge.
“The smart grid movement that resulted from ARRA spurred interest from telecommunications providers to see critical infrastructure, like the electric grid, as a potential client base,” Arshad said.
Since 2014 some of these larger contracts for smart grid sensors in the USA are going up to a thousand or more units, revealing greater acceptance of the technology.
While the current market is centred primarily in the USA, Europe, Latin America and other global regions are also forecast to become high-growth markets. In Latin America, utilities are spending time and resources to install pilot programmes to aid fault location and theft prevention. 
“Latin America is an untapped market with a lot of potential to grow,” Arshad said. “As the governments in this region take note of the grid problems, more and more policies and utility benchmarking schemes are being put in place to encourage investment in smart grids.”
In Europe there is a particularly strong need for renewables energy management. The influx of energy from solar and wind is creating a large demand for improved grid monitoring by utilities. Greater adoption of smart grid sensors across Europe is anticipated, as utilities will need more granular measurements on the electricity grid to integrate renewables efficiently, while still properly balancing the grid. Since many of these residential solar installations are concentrated in dense, urban environments made up of large underground distribution networks, smart grid sensor growth in Europe is supported by a sharp increase in sales of underground sensors.
IHS forecasts that while the smart grid sensor market only accounted for less than 20 per cent of total sensor sales revenues in 2014, it will account for 75 per cent of the total sensor market in 2021. The smart grid sensor market is expected to reach the $100m mark in 2017 and fast-paced growth will continue well into 2021.
“A growth of this magnitude shows that smart grid sensors will become widely accepted in the near future,” Arshad said, “and while sensor are not becoming business as usual for most smaller utilities, larger utilities companies will incorporate sensors, as part of their regular purchasing decisions.”
Going from pilot programmes to large-scale installations will bring more examples of successful deployments, further revealing benefits to utilities, and allowing for smart grid sensor technology to scale accordingly.
“Utilities are altering their organisational structures to better use information gathered from smart grid sensors, which radically increases the value of sensing devices,” Arshad said.