Global investment in smart grid technologies rose by 7% in 2012 to $13.9 billion according to research from the US-based Worldwatch Institute.
Europe saw a 27% boost in spending on 2011 figures to $1.4 billion; China’s market increased 14% to $3.2 billion while the US saw a 19% dip from $5.1 to $4.3 billion.
Smart grids are electricity networks that use digital information and communication technologies to improve the efficiency and reliability of the transport of electricity.
The increasing use of renewables such as wind and solar and soaring consumption levels requires more sophisticated and flexible networks to accommodate fluctuations in supply and demand.
Changes in legislation in the USA, EU and China appear to be behind these levels of investment.
Federal funding programmes introduced in the USA in 2009 ended in 2012, while EU laws mandating the introduction of smart metering in 80% of households by 2020 has forced governments to allocate funds to the sector.
China has long-term plans to overhaul its transmission system, which is struggling to cope with rising levels of demand.
The State Grid Corporation of China says it will deploy 335,000 kilometres of 110-volt-plus power lines across the country.
Tim Field from the Energy Networks Association, which represents electricity and gas distribution networks, told RTCC he welcomed signs investment was increasing.
“Critical to the plans for our energy future and ensuring affordability is the creation of a smarter network,” he said.
“New technology and innovation are essential for this so investment to deliver an integrated smart grid is important. We encourage companies to engage with network operators to ensure the best value for their investment.
“By managing and responding to demand with increased data, the networks can make more efficient use of renewables, can understand consumption to maximise use of existing assets and reduce the amount of new infrastructure required.”