While the smart grid is a relatively new concept, it doesn’t take long for the next change to arrive. Until now, the buzz has been about how smart meters would play such a valuable role in the expansion of smart grids by enabling utilities and customers to exchange real-time data about energy consumption. Now, smart grids have become so much more.

According to a recent report from Boulder, Colo.-based market research firm Navigant, networking and communications are the next frontier for smart grids. 

“Smart Grid Networking and Communications” describes the changes taking place in the energy industry that are driving this trend. Specifically, as the number and variety of smart grid applications grow, the demands placed on grid communications networks also grow. Increasingly, utilities are expected to support a multitude of control and monitoring functions, as a result of reliability mandates and the proliferation of distributed generation and electric vehicles. With the increasing connectivity of critical grid infrastructure, security has also become a major concern.

This has led to an increased number of competitors offering differing products. At the same time, Navigant reports that the trend is toward fewer standards for most major applications, including advanced metering infrastructure, distributed automation and substation automation.

Navigant projects that the moves toward standardization and greater interoperability is pushing the technology toward an ­Internet protocol solution. The report projects global spending on smart grid communications networking and equipment to reach $30 billion by 2023.