China Beats U.S. on Smart-Grid Spending for First Time

China spent more on smart grids than the U.S. for the first time in 2013, with the $4.3 billion it invested accounting for almost a third of the world’s total.

Global spending rose almost 5 percent to $14.9 billion, according to data released yesterday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. North American investment declined as much as 33 percent to $3.6 billion.

“Asian and European markets will drive growth through 2020, while in North America the focus will continue to shift from hardware to software as utilities look to squeeze additional value out of the vast amounts of grid data now available,” Colin McKerracher, a senior analyst on smart technologies for energy at BNEF, said in a statement.

Smart grids allow power generators and users to monitor usage, helping utilities adjust supply to demand and reducing costs by saving energy in transmission. China has installed almost 250 million smart meters, which enable customers to provide immediate feedback to utilities that are able to use the data to set pricing and smooth fluctuations in consumption.

Europe is expected to have 180 million meters installed by the end of the decade from 55 million now, according to BNEF.

Spending on distribution automation, technology used to locate and automatically fix faults on the grid, rose to $5.4 billion in 2013 from $4.4 billion in 2012, driven partly by the increased use of power generated from renewable sources.

(Corrects headline, first paragraph to specify smart grid)
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