Consider it a luxury. As a particular technology matures and becomes widely accepted, a new set of challenges emerge. Such is the case for the smart grid, which is passing the point of being a novelty and entering the realm of accepted practice. Perhaps even the adjective “smart” no longer applies, as there will soon be no difference between grids that are and aren’t. A dumb grid will simply not be an option.

Semantics aside, what we know as the smart grid faces a number of challenges. Chicago-based consulting firm Navigant Research recently published a white paper that offers some predictions.

“Smart Grid: 10 Trends to Watch in 2013 and Beyond” forecasts that utilities will invest nearly half a trillion dollars on smart grid technologies throughout this decade. Within that growth, a number of patterns emerge.

First of all, transmission upgrades will represent the largest spending category, and within that category alone, slightly more than half, or $256 billion, will be spent on high-voltage direct current upgrades.

Conversely, the white paper notes that smart meter shipments will decline in the United States as stimulus funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act winds down. On the other hand, the market for home energy management systems will gain momentum, driven by such factors as time-of-use pricing, demand response (DR) programs and a rebound in new home construction.

On the subject of DR, Navigant also projects a shift to what it calls a flexibility market, which allows operators to respond to small, frequent changes from intermittent sources, such as wind and solar power. Navigant also projects growth in automated DR and utilities relying more heavily on real-timegrid analytics. 

The smart grid of tomorrow will also integrate next-generation outage management systems with distribution management systems for more efficient disaster recovery and service restoration.

Finally, utilities will face their share of challenges with the increase of distributed generation. Cyber security will continue to be a low-budget priority.