September 23, 2010 - Utilities around the world may be eager to embrace smart grids, but they don't necessarily want to have to deal with them themselves.

Pike Research released a report today suggesting that utilities have turned to experts to install and deploy smart grids, the two-way digital communications systems for distributing and managing electricity based on real-time use by consumers. It seems likely they'll use an external service provider to manage and maintain their systems as well.

Currently the world is on track to spend a total of $470 million in 2010 on smart-grid management services. Pike predicts that will grow to $821 million in 2011.

Smart-grid management services will become a boom industry and generate $4.3 billion in global revenue by 2015.

Pike attributes the new-found popularity of smart grids mainly to economic incentive; smart grids can lower operating costs for utilities, as well as provide more efficient electricity distribution. But the increase in smart grids being used is also due to changes in political policies and populist sentiment encouraging the integration of renewable resources, according to Pike. Smart grids make it much easier for utilities to integrate electricity generated from renewable resources like wind and solar, which can fluctuate at nature's whim in how much electricity they produce in a given time period.

The report predicts service providers will benefit from this growth because many of them already have proven track records in providing services for information technology and operations technology.

The report echoes the slew of announcements in recent years from heavy players in the tech world who've decided to develop smart-grid systems and services.