All the recent hype and investment in energy efficiency, renewable power and new technology won’t amount to much without the proper upgrades to our energy infrastructure. Thankfully, the trend points to rapid growth in this dimension, too.

According to the Rockville, Md.-based market research firm Specialists in Business Information (SBI), the U.S. market for smart grid technologies is projected to grow by almost 21 percent a year for the next five years. The rapid increase will take the market from its current total of $6 billion to almost $17 billion by 2014. An aging electric infrastructure, increasing demand for electricity, and in-creased reliance on foreign fuel sources have exposed the need for a more effective electric energy system, both nationally and abroad. The convergence of these factors will propel the rapid growth.

According to SBI, future growth of the smart grid market will be partly driven by the use of the technology to provide better sensing and control systems that maximize the use of electricity from renewable-energy sources, which produce power that is highly variable and subject to intermittent operation. Wind, solar and other forms of renewable power are expected to be widely distributed across the United States. However, the country’s current electric grid is not equipped to realistically maximize the potential of such energy sources.