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The market for smart grid technologies that help integrate renewable energy sources will grow from $3.8 billion this year to just under $13 billion in 2018, finds a new study by Pike Research.

However, the time horizons for the widespread commercialization of these technologies vary widely, the report notes. Demand response, for example, has been offered in some forms by utilities and grid operators for many decades, while clear business models for advanced energy storage have yet to be demonstrated.

While larger investments are flowing toward renewables integration at the transmission-level of power service, most of these technologies - such as high-voltage direct current lines - do not qualify as part of the smart grid, Pike Research says, adding that today, distribution-level smart grid technologies, such as microgrids, clearly lead this market.

“For all the talk of the challenges of bringing increasing amounts of distributed, renewable energy sources onto the power grid, in reality, there is no consensus on the exact effects of renewables integration on grid operations,” says senior research analyst Peter Asmus.

“What we do know is that the fundamental architecture of today’s electricity grid - based on the idea of a top-down system predicated on unidirectional energy flows - is becoming obsolete, and is unsuited for the increasing diversity and variability of power generation,” he adds.

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