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Smart Grid Budgets Rising, Survey Says

Budgets to support smart grid planning and implementation are increasing, according to a survey by Microsoft.

In the Microsoft Worldwide Utility Industry Survey 2011, 73 percent of those surveyed said budgets for these efforts are on the rise. But the survey projected only a modest increase – eight percent – in the number of utilities moving past smart grid planning and into implementation.

The survey found that one of the key challenges for smart grid implementation is utilities’ need for architectural and implementation guidance. This is needed for the utilities to be certain that future smart grid technology advances will integrate with their existing technology investments, Microsoft said.

“Our study clearly indicates the hype cycle is over, and more utilities today are planning smart grid implementations,” said Jon C. Arnold, managing director for the Worldwide Power & Utilities Industry at Microsoft Corp. and a member of the Smart Grid Advisory Committee to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

“Our discussions with clients indicate an increased emphasis on architecture in the planning process as they transform their existing information systems and business operations and implement the smart grid,” Arnold added.

The survey found that more than 50 percent of utilities see their customer information systems changing dramatically as a result of the smart grid, with many utilities looking at replacements or working to find ways to adapt their systems to interval billing, electric vehicles, and other demand-side management and new energy programs. Bills will become more complex, according to 56 percent of respondents.

Survey responses also showed that 64 percent of respondents don’t have a clear view of the enterprise-wide information and technology infrastructure that they will use to structure their current and future smart grid deployments.

In this year’s survey, 72 percent of utility professionals and executives said that distribution management is the most important tool needed for successful smart grid implementation – a similar number to last year.

As well as providing software and services to the power and utilities markets, Microsoft is eyeing the market for energy management in commercial buildings, according to the company’s chief environmental strategist.

In other smart grid news today, Schneider Electric, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and energy strategy consultant Skipping Stone are collaborating to enhance the demand response credit for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Picture credit: David Biesack

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