London, U.K. --- (METERING.COM) --- June 12, 2009 - In 2008, there were 1,698 million electricity meters, 767 million utility or billing water meters, and 395 million gas consumers in the world, according to ABS Research’s latest world meter reports on the three sectors.

In the electricity sector the annual demand in 2008 was 132 million meters. This is expected to rise at an unprecedented annual rate of 7.5 percent to 176 million meters in 2012, with the value of the market rising even faster, at 15.3 percent, from €3.9 billion ($5.7 billion) in 2008 to €6.9 billion ($8.7 billion) in 2012.

In the water sector the annual demand in 2009 is expected to be 87 million meters (74 million billing meters and 13 million submeters), essentially unchanged from 2008, or 50 million excluding the essentially inaccessible Chinese and Japanese markets. However, the market is expected to show an upturn in 2010 with growth of 3.9 percent for the next three years to reach a demand of 98 million meters in 2012.

In the gas sector the total demand for utility meters in 2008 was 27 million meters (20.7 million meters excluding the Japanese market), and is expected to rise to 31.4 million meters in 2012.

Electricity

The electricity meter report identifies 32 countries that have decided to proceed with advanced metering – covering 416 million electricity end points in the next 5 to 12 years – and says the global metering market will increase 56 percent in five years, with more to follow. However, it is not all good news. Not every deployment will offer the same opportunities to the international meter manufacturers. Some of the largest schemes are in markets which are not accessible to the international vendors. To optimize the opportunity the good planner will need to direct resources to the countries where the chances are best.

Long term the problem is that the dynamics of the market will be totally changed. After the initial deployments in the next five to ten years there will be an immediate lull in demand. For example, on current plans for AMI the European market alone will decline by almost 60 percent for a period as large swathes of the meter fleet will have been completely renewed and will need no replacement. Another ripple to this comes with privatization in Eastern Europe. Old electromechanical meters are being replaced by (mostly) basic electronic meters, creating another category of new meter fleets. At some point after that replacement will recommence, and it will be based on a shorter meter life than in the traditional electromechanical meter installations, so demand will increase.

In past years before these technology changes in meter demand have approximated to a sine curve. This is now being interrupted but the trends are in their infancy and as yet are not completely mapped because full plans are not known.

Water

The water meter market has been impacted by the collapse of the construction industry and a reduction in demand for new residential meters, most notably in China, the United States and Spain, the water meter report says. However, easing economic conditions, an increase in the incidence of metering to conserve water, and a move to intelligent metering will contribute to the expected upturn in 2010.

Moreover, the water meter sector is beginning to change, following in the path of the advanced metering revolution taking place in the energy sector, but at some distance behind it. In the U.S. water utilities started to deploy AMR several years ago but it has not reached parity with the energy utilities. The emphasis is now changing for both sectors, to AMI. In a time of rising water prices there is a need to control costs but another important consideration enters the equation for water, scarcity of the resource. In recent years there have been a number of critical droughts in countries scattered over the globe. In some countries that rely on hydropower this has lead to a shortage of electricity, as was the case in Brazil several years ago. In other countries it has affected both industry and the population. In Taiwan in 2008 water was rationed to industry in order to provide drinking water for the population. In China scarcity of water is a national priority at the highest level. In the Middle East, Spain, and the southern states of America water scarcity is a recurrent problem.

Smart water meters are being deployed to manage the resource and this is a growth area. Irrigation meters are also increasingly prominent.

Gas

The gas meter market has been following the electricity meter trend to AMR in the U.S. for some years and is increasingly doing the same in Europe, but at a much slower pace, the gas meter report says. With a new consciousness towards energy efficiency, driven partly by fears about the environment and partly by concern about energy security, gas utilities are now considering advanced metering, jumping from AMR one-way to AMI two-way communication.

The U.K. is the first country to announce a national roll-out of advanced electricity and gas meters, totaling 49 million meters.

It is expected that gas metering will follow the trend to advanced metering more widely in the next few years.