The advance of Smart Grid technologies is being hampered by uncertainty as to how new IT systems should be incorporated into network operations.

That is the conclusion of a new report which found that the total value of the Smart Grid software and related IT services market will reach $4.3bn by the end of 2012, and grow to over $8.6bn by 2017. 

North America is leading the initial market in many Smart Grid IT innovations, but the European and Asia Pacific markets will become more significant over the next five years, said analysts at Pike Research. 

Europe’s drive toward its 20-20-20 carbon-reduction targets is focusing innovation on the issues around renewable integration, energy efficiency, and energy security. In the Asia Pacific, the scale of Chinese investments in grid infrastructure is yet to be matched by an impact on the IT market, but China will become a more active player in the market in coming years, according to the report.

Pike states that although the need to support smart meters has already driven significant change in the utility IT landscape, “the evolution of the Smart Grid from the initial deployment of smart meters to a dynamic, intelligent network supporting bidirectional communications between utilities and customers is only just beginning”. 

According to the report, the need to define and deploy new IT systems to support the Smart Grid is driving greater collaboration between the information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) sides of businesses.

“Utilities are taking varied approaches to solving this challenge,” said research director Eric Woods. “In some utilities, the chief information officer is driving the planning process to achieve an architectural view of IT and OT.

“Others are allowing operational teams to take the lead in defining requirements, with the IT organization adopting the system provider role.  However, most utilities are focused on defining the new functions and processes required for Smart Grids, finding ways to work together to achieve this and worrying later about organizational structures.”