Smart grids

Tracking Clean Energy Progress

🕐 Last updated Wednesday, 23 May 2018

More efforts needed

Investment in smart grid technologies grew by 12% between 2014 and 2016 overall, but key areas such as smart distribution networks are lagging behind, with investment growing by only 3% in 2017. Progress in smart meter deployment is uneven across countries, with further regulatory change and new business models needed for smart grids to play their critical integration role in clean energy transitions.


Investment in smart distribution networks by country

Investment in smart grids technologies is growing but key areas such as smart distribution networks are lagging behind.

	India	Japan	United States	Europe	China	Rest of World
2015	0.37	0.44	1.90	2.11	3.00	3.81
2016	0.39	0.47	2.04	2.23	3.24	4.03
2017	0.41	0.48	2.12	2.30	3.34	4.15
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Smart grids comprise a broad mix of technologies for modernising electricity networks, extending from the end-user to the distribution and transmission levels.

Improved monitoring, control and automation technologies can help to enable new business models while unlocking system-wide benefits including reduced outages, improved response times, deferral of investment in the grids themselves and the integration of distributed energy resources.

At the end-user level, smart grids can enable demand flexibility and consumer participation in energy systems, including through demand response, electric vehicle charging and self-produced distributed generation and storage.

Demand flexibility can increase the overall capacity of the system to host variable renewables while accelerating the electrification of heating, cooling and industry at lower costs. Deploying a physical layer of smart grid infrastructure – underpinned by smart meters – can help to unlock these benefits.

Smart meter deployment has seen great strides in recent years in a few key regions. China is approaching full deployment, and Japan, Spain and France are poised to reach full rollouts over the next few years. The United States and the European Union as a whole have reached over half of the market.

Global cumulative smart meter installations

Smart meter deployment has grown rapidly, with several countries poised to reach full rollouts over the next several years.

	Rest of world	Spain	Japan	Italy	United States	China
2013	43	7	3	36	52	280
2014	55	10	7	37	58	369
2015	69	14	13	37	65	399
2016	90	19	24	37	72	447
2017	125	23	38	37	79	472
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Progress in India and Southeast Asia has been slow to date, but plans are in place to achieve strong growth to 2025. Recent cost reductions in advanced metering infrastructure and lessons learned from large-scale deployments in other regions could accelerate smart meter deployment in emerging markets.

At the distribution level, “smartening” energy systems through information and communication technology (ICT) allows for optimisation of grid monitoring and control. In particular, data and analytics allow for the real-time monitoring of conditions, opening up possibilities for predicting failures and carrying out remote maintenance.

Better and cheaper sensors are improving the visibility of grid conditions, allowing the physical capacity of the network to be increased. Overall, digital energy networks reduce the need to build new power lines or invest in physical network assets.

Investment in distribution network monitoring and automation has been increasing over recent years and saw continued but modest growth (3%) in 2017, with nearly USD 13 billion in investment concentrated in China, Europe and the United States.

At the transmission level, new high voltage technologies allow for greater interconnection between networks and the connection of remote energy resources.

Digital smart control technologies allow transmission networks to operate at higher capacities, closer to their physical limits. They can also improve management of interconnections between regions and countries.

Investment in interconnecting transmission systems greatly increased in 2017, when annual line-kilometres tripled from 2016.

Deployment of national and regional high-voltage transmission and interconnection

China accounted for over two-thirds of all line-kilometres commissioned globally.

	Middle East & North Africa	Africa (excl. N. Africa)	Oceania	Central and South America	Europe	Other Asia	North America	China
2010	0.00	0.95	0.00	0.00	0.26	0.80	0.09	4.85
2011	0.00	0.00	0	0	1.41	0.105	0	2.3134
2012	0.00	0.00	0	2	0.24	0.96	0	1.038
2013	0.00	0.00	0.611	4.75	0.52	0	0	4.2296
2014	0.00	0.00	0	0	0.44	0	0.485	5.292
2015	0.00	0.00	0	0	1.68	3.543	3.45	1.6
2016	0.18	0.41	0	0	1.37	2.428	0	0.608
2017	0.06	0.00	0	0	1.79	0	2.801	11.459
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China accounted for over two-thirds of all line-kilometres for high voltage and interconnection capacity commissioned globally, where a combination of geography, policy and local capacities strongly favour high-and ultra-high voltage power lines.