Investment in smart grid technology is necessary to promote growth, but even more so, it will determine which countries are best able to take advantage of emerging energy sources over the next two decades.
Smart grid investment is already big money, says Ricardo Berrios, Director of Clean Tech at the California – Spain Chamber of Commerce. And, he says, it promises to get much bigger even in the next few years.
Berrios pointed to a few key factors that will boost smart grid investment and technology in the short term during a presentation at Intersolar North America. Analytics, he said, will give the data that will increase understanding. Standards consolidation will make it easier to invest and implement. And the rise of solar and electric vehicles could be the demand shift that will require a greater urgency to integrate new tools and technologies.
There’s a lot at stake, said Berrios. The nations that best implement new strategies and infrastructure may help reshuffle the world pecking order. “There are emerging markets beyond the U.S.,” he said. “Emerging economies could leapfrog existing leading nations.”
So, who’s investing and where will the action be?
China has already invested $7.3 billion in smart grid technologies and the U.S. is right behind at $7 billion. A nation like South Korea, which has a much smaller economy, has proven to be comparatively one of the biggest investers in smart grid technology, spending nearly $1 billion. He gave a closer look at how some global economies are approaching this challenge and the obstacles they face.
South America’s leading economy is preparing for a 60 percent growth in electricity consumption between 2007 and 2017. To feed this, they’re planning for a 16 percent to 34 percent increase in renewables from sources like hydro, biomass and wind. But they have an aging grid that is currently a one-way power flow that needs to move in two directions.
The nation’s energy needs are expected to double by 2020. By that time, they project they will have spent $96 billion in smart grid technology. Many of the changes are going to happen in the homes themselves, with the nation accounting for 18.2 percent of global smart grid appliance spending by 2015.
Already a leader in the technology sector, South Korea is quickly adapting toward a smart grid future. A $65 million pilot program on Jeju Island is implementing a fully integrated grid for 6,000 homes, a series of wind farms and four distribution lines. Its leaders plan to implement smart grids nationwide by 2030.