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Smart Meter Market Set To Expand

By Marie Jones | Sunday | 14/11/2010

The global smart metering market for residential customers is set to rise by 350 percent to reach $5.7 billion by 2015, according to new research from Datamonitor.

This is being fuelled by a wave of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) meters being deployed in the US, which is expected to peak in 2013, by which time, projects in France, Spain and the UK will be in full swing. By 2015, Datamonitor forecasts that the German deployment will just be beginning and that volume shipments of AMI meters in Eastern Europe will be significant.

However, Jon Lane, energy director at Datamonitor, claims the installation of smart metering at homes, which are snowballing due to a 'Me-Too' mindset among utility companies and users, will have to show corresponding reductions in carbon usage if they are to avoid becoming 'expensive white elephants', as evidenced by smart metering projects in the UK. 

He said: "Smart metering has gained an unstoppable momentum. The market is snowballing as policy makers and utilities invest in smart metering because everyone else is doing it. As a result, more than 60 million residential smart meter units will be shipped in 2015, a four-fold increase on last year."

Datamonitor forecasts that during this period, the value of the residential electricity smart metering market in the UK alone will rise to $742 million in 2015, up from just $6 million in 2009. This includes the market for residential smart electricity meters and all related infrastructure - from communications modules through to smart thermostats and meter data management software.

However, smart meter deployment in the UK is set to be the most expensive in the world. Using smart metering plans that are extremely sophisticated, they involve a multi-utility roll out with a central communications provider to collect and provide metering data to market participants and a centralised procurement programme to deliver economies of scale.

Lane adds: "All of this makes the UK's smart metering programme expensive. All-in costs including gas meters were originally estimated at $215 per household but the more recent decision to fit modular meters may push up the cost further. The UK solution looks very expensive compared to, say, France where ERDF expects to drive down the cost of its meters to €32-35. The equivalent figure for the UK's meters is around €65.

"These higher costs are only acceptable as the government has used carbon savings and an anticipated reduction in demand in its calculations. If consumers don't reduce usage then the UK system becomes an expensive white elephant," Lane added.

Datamonitor states that local presence and knowledge will be key to UK vendors maximising the potential opportunities this growth will bring. As a result the large Chinese meter manufacturers, for example, will have limited success in international smart metering projects before 2015.

"The most successful vendors will be those that have worked with utilities and regulators on the system design and have a track record of understanding the needs of their customers", concludes Lane.

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