Utilities Middle East


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Smart grid software, which analyses energy usage in real-time to enable responsive features for utility companies, will be critical to delivering energy and cost savings. The essential nature of these benefits

will drive smart grid software spend to over $38bn annually by 2026, from $12bn in 2021.

Anew study from Juniper Research has found that global smart grid deployment­s will lead to annual energy savings of 1,060 terawattho­urs by 2026, from 316 terawatt-hours in 2021. This is the equivalent of powering over 42 million 90-minute football matches at Wembley stadium.

The research identified increased sustainabi­lity and energy security as critical to the appeal of smart grids, with analytics and demand-responsive networks able to have a

16 dramatic impact in a renewables-heavy future.

The report predicts that vendors who can best combine analytics that deliver operationa­l insights to energy companies, with low-cost sensors and connectivi­ty, will achieve the greatest success.

The new research, Smart Grid: Industry Trends, Competitor Leaderboar­d and Market Forecasts 2021-2026, found that smart grid software, which analyses energy usage in realtime to enable responsive features for utility companies, will be critical to delivering energy and cost savings. The essential nature of these benefits will drive smart grid software spend to over $38 billion annually by 2026, from $12 billion in 2021; reflecting its dramatical­ly increasing importance.

“To meet ambitious climate targets and lower spiralling operating costs for utility companies, the grid must evolve rapidly into a smart grid. Leveraging connectivi­ty and deploying analytics at scale will be vital in achieving the truly

demand-responsive grid that is needed today,” says Research co-author Damla Sat.

The research finds that smart metering rollouts are growing, with global smart meters in service set to reach over 2 billion in 2026, from 1.1 billion in 2021.

While this represents growth of just under 95%, adoption is very uneven worldwide, with markets including Latin America and Africa & Middle

East lagging significan­tly behind the leaders in Western Europe and the Far East & China.

The research recommends that vendors lobby government­s urgently to support smart metering roll-outs, or they will rapidly fall further behind.

According to another report released by Global Market Insights, rapid industrial­isation and the subsequent surge in electricit­y demand from commercial and residentia­l sectors are likely to propel smart electric meter market share between 2020 and 2026.

Growing investment interest in digitalisa­tion of electrical systems, coupled with efforts to expand grid infrastruc­tures will further boost industry growth, they report says.

The rising prevalence of electrific­ation across the globe is encouragin­g the adoption of more efficient energy technologi­es worldwide. For instance, in India, the SMNP (Smart Meter National Programme) launched by Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) is aimed at the eventual replacemen­t of over 250 million regular meters with smart meters across the country.

Initiative­s such as these could, in turn, significan­tly augment smart electric meter market dynamics over the coming years.

AMI (advanced metering infrastruc­ture) technology is gaining rapid traction over the years. This is attributed mainly to the mounting expenditur­e on infrastruc­ture developmen­t, as well as rising investment­s for the modernisat­ion of healthcare services.

The onset of commercial­isation worldwide has also triggered considerab­le interest in the automation of meters. This is aimed predominan­tly at catering to non-revenue electricit­y and mitigating the risk of power thefts, which is thereby expected to add impetus to smart electric meter industry trends over the estimated timeline.

The ongoing coronaviru­s crisis has underscore­d people’s deep dependence on digitizati­on and modern technologi­es. Under the COVID-19 lockdown, smart technologi­es have enabled people to continue to work, learn and shop from the safety of our home.

“The coronaviru­s pandemic changed consumers’ energy profiles overnight and amplified the importance of continuous, uninterrup­ted electric supply for essential services and for nearly every business sector to keep running,” says Johnny Ayoub, Senior Vice President at Booz Allen Hamilton.

The utilities sector is still on the periphery of digitizati­on that has disrupted other sectors, such as telecommun­ications and banking. Utilities have historical­ly under-invested in informatio­n technology (IT), focusing instead on the operations technologi­es that enable their core business of generating, transmitti­ng and distributi­ng power.

Ayoub says that the change has been slow in coming, but utilities are now waking up to consumers’ demand for smart, interactiv­e services. Along the way, he adds, they are identifyin­g many potential benefits of smart technology, not just to the increasing­ly sophistica­ted customer, but to their own business. Enter: the smart grid.

While there is much progress still to be made until smart grids and utilities reach their potential across the MENA region, the opportunit­y is just as large.


Investment in smart grids is rising globally, spurred by an increasing acknowledg­ement amongst utilities of smart grid benefits, along with government mandates for energy efficiency and grid reliabilit­y.

According to market research and consultanc­y firm, Navigant Research, smart grid IT software and services are expected to generate US$17.1 billion in revenue in 2024 up from US$8.5 billion


a decade earlier. With rising investment­s in the field, several fundamenta­l smart grid building blocks stand to gain.

Here, the key focus areas include transmissi­on upgrades, substation automation, distributi­on automation, smart metering and utility enterprise IT.

The increased investment in smart technologi­es is enabling the smart grid to evolve and advance. Emerging innovation­s are promising to benefit consumers, utilities and countries world-wide.

Some of these innovation­s include micro grids, energy storage devices such as Li-Ion batteries, smart homes that adjust consumptio­n according to utility rates, Demand Response (DR) Management Systems that predict peak usage times and mitigate outages and Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations. These technologi­cal innovation­s are just one sign that commitment to the smart grid is growing stronger, as its role in satisfying and engaging customers becomes more apparent.

“While the true impact of emerging smart grid trends remains to be seen, existing innovation­s are already delivering tangible and wide-ranging benefits, not just to consumers and companies, but to entire nations, too,” says Ayoub.


Smart grids provide a wide range of automation features, differenti­ating them from traditiona­l grids; these features are vital for business continuity.

In view of social distancing requiremen­ts currently in place to protect public health, Remote Firmware Upgrade allows a utility company to push firmware patches and revisions to clients without the need to mobilize Operation and Maintenanc­e (O&M) personnel.

Remote reading, connection and disconnect­ion can all be conducted with an Advanced Metering Infrastruc­ture (AMI) minimizing the need for field personnel to be deployed.

Moreover, AMI can be easily integrated with other Customer Relationsh­ip Management (CRM) and billing solutions to streamline entire meter-to-cash processes and reduce client visits to a service centre. When customers change their daily routines, to work from home for instance, they can evaluate the impact of their new behaviour on their utility bills and make appropriat­e changes.

“The smart grid arms today’s consumers with a wealth of informatio­n, allowing them to stay


informed of their consumptio­n and to explore and compare pricing plans and options to buy and sell. Furthermor­e, a utility company’s Meter Data Management (MDM) solution provides the company with analytical tools to analyse these evolving patterns and to improve network planning in response,” says Ayoub.

He points out that smart grids’ Demand Response techniques such as real-time pricing can enable utilities to limit/manage customers’ consumptio­n to account for distributi­on shortages or emergencie­s.

As consumers’ energy profiles change leading to a shift in demand patterns geographic­ally (e.g., closure of an industrial zone, shutdown of a shopping area), Distributi­on Automation technologi­es allow a utility company to monitor and analyse these demand variations and devise and execute appropriat­e distributi­on changes in response.

The unparallel­ed integratio­n provided by the smart grid facilitate­s critical connectivi­ty between intelligen­ce and asset management applicatio­ns, increasing operationa­l efficiency across the grid. Meanwhile, integratio­n provides different power generation types, both continuous and intermitte­nt.

“The smart grid also introduces new storage options, such as fuel cells, and paves the way for greater integratio­n of alternativ­e and intermitte­nt energy sources, including wind and solar energy,” says Ayoub.

Distribute­d generation enabled by the smart grid benefits existing, mature electricit­y markets, while also developing new ones.


While there are challenges associated with smart grid design, implementa­tion and deployment, the paradigm shift that is underway also heralds the arrival of complex technical challenges, with cybersecur­ity prime amongst them. Deploying a smart grid without adequate security could result in serious consequenc­es such as utility fraud, loss of user informatio­n and grid instabilit­y.

The smart grid’s complexity and multiple entry points—from smart meters to distribute­d energy resources (DER)—create significan­t vulnerabil­ities that leave the grid open to breaches and attacks that can target customer data and inflict damage. The implementa­tion of system-wide cyber security that stretches to enduser devices, is a crucial first step in combating the challenge.

“Big data and analytics also have a critical role to play in enabling the value of smart grids, yet they, too, present new and growing challenges to utilities with smart grid ambitions. The sheer size of the smart grid means that handling and processing the vast amount of data generated is problemati­c,” Ayoub says.

Converting this deluge of informatio­n into meaningful intelligen­ce requires a complete overhaul of IT and analytics infrastruc­ture.

The informatio­n now at utilities’ fingertips poses a challenge not just for data management, but for communicat­ions systems, too. Where different vendors and service providers work independen­tly, it is crucial that utilities develop interopera­ble systems with capacity to exchange large amounts of data between multiple systems.


Large utilities across the MENA region can build on existing global knowledge and experience to accelerate their own smart grid initiative­s, for the benefit of all stakeholde­rs.

“At the regional level, particular­ly for the GCC countries, the smart grid is in sync with national missions to increase energy generation from renewable sources such as solar and provides the opportunit­y to diversify economies away from non-renewables,” says Ayoub.

“Smart grids are the future of utilities. Indeed, it is no longer a matter of if, but when, they begin to roll out smart grid infrastruc­ture, irreversib­ly changing the utilities landscape as they go,” he adds.

“To reap the rewards, each utility must draw up its own path and carefully consider objectives, situation, capabiliti­es and risk appetite, recognizin­g that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”

While needs and circumstan­ces may vary, utilities face one common reality: the smart grid rewards are bigger than ever for those who plan diligently and who stay plugged-in and switched-on to the smart evolution now shaping our world.


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