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The electric smart grid is updating networks, communications, metering devices, pilots, and ultimately deployments, but the global gas utility market is not far behind.
The smart gas grid will implement many of the same devices as the smart electricity grid, integrating advanced communications with energy measurement to drive greater operational efficiencies for gas utilities as well as reduced energy consumption, according to a new study by Pike Research, entitled “Smart Gas Meters.”
In North America, one key driver for the smart gas grid will be major combo-utilities (electric and gas) whose decision making processes will trickle down from their electric advanced metering infrastructure deployments.
The ability for a combo-utility to participate in submetering – the process where a gas module sends signals to an electricity meter – will further ignite the gas advanced metering infrastructure market. Additionally, the combo-utilities receiving stimulus funds for smart grid deployments will act as first-movers, stimulating gas advanced metering infrastructure revenues.
“Although not in the spotlight – and receiving zero funding from the federal stimulus bill – the smart gas grid is becoming an area of increasing focus for utilities, especially combo-utilities with both electric and gas assets,” said Pike Research Analyst Jevan Fox.
The global and regional gas advanced metering infrastructure market runs the gamut, from current active deployments in some European countries to gas hardly metered at all in others. Asia Pacific and Latin America are interesting regions for gas advanced metering infrastructure. Those two regions have developing countries showing massive growth of installed end-points. The year-to-year growth will grow dramatically in parallel with the region’s economic growth, and provides significant opportunity for smart meter and communications vendors as local governments look to increase efficiency and decrease theft within the gas grid.
The global installed base of smart gas meters will grow quickly over the next several years, increasing from 8.5 million in 2009 to 36.3 million by 2016, according to the Pike Research report.
“The natural gas grid has been referred to as ‘the other grid’, taking the back seat while the electric smart grid receives significant attention,” Fox said.
Key drivers Fox said are motivating gas utilities to complete an advanced metering infrastructure rollout include:
• Reduction in meter reading labor costs
• Increase in meter reading frequency and accuracy
• Outage detection
• Power quality monitoring, outage prevention, and load planning
• Theft prevention
• Remote disconnect
• Cathodic protection analysis
Pike Research forecasts that Europe will be the largest regional market for smart gas meters, with 13.5 million units installed by 2016. North America will be the second-largest region with 12.2 million smart gas meters in the same timeframe. Asia Pacific and Latin America are also important regions for gas advanced metering infrastructure, especially given the rapid growth of gas infrastructure and customers in key countries.

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