It is only of late, however, that the industry has recognized the critical role that IT will play as the one-way network of old evolves into a far more complex system – i.e., the smart grid. According to a recent report courtesy, Navigant Research, snowballing utility spending on IT systems for the smart grid will total $139.3 billion from fiscal 2014 through 2022.
“A dizzying array of solutions has emerged to meet utilities’ IT needs for the smart grid,” states Richelle Elberg, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. Supplementing that – “This is a period of rapid change, and the difficulties associated with legacy system replacement and new system integration are not minor – but the potential benefits are real and increasingly measurable in terms of grid efficiency, reliability, and financial viability.”
To be able to meet utilities’ needs and to ease this transition, IT vendors are working to develop solutions that are more interoperable, according to the report, as well as creative purchasing models, such as managed services. Simultaneously, legacy utility IT systems were not designed to handle the volume or the speeds of data generated by the smart grid – so new hardware may be needed, in addition to software systems, to maximize the value of information gathered by grid devices. Increasingly, utilities are looking to outsourced data centers to meet these needs.