Despite a current slowdown, the global market for electric smart meters is set to enjoy steady growth in the near future, bolstered by large-scale expansion plans in China and parts of the EU.

According to the latest data from Navigant Research, the global smart meter market is currently in the midst of a slow growth phase following a slump in North American deployments and delays to large-scale roll out programs in countries such as the United Kingdom and Brazil.

While the smart meter market in North America received a strong boost from several years of large-scale deployment driven by US federal stimulus spending, installations of new equipment are now on the wane and analysts generally have dire expectations for the regional sector in near to medium term.

In other major economies such as the United Kingdom and Brazil, plans for the widespread deployment of smart meter technology have been hampered and delayed by regulatory constraints, further impeding growth in the global market.

Despite these adverse factors, the deployment of smart meters is set to enjoy steady growth over the next several years, with Navigant Research forecasting that global shipments are set to hit a peak in 2018 at 131 million units per annum.

China will pick up much of the North American slack in smart meter deployment due to Beijing’s massive plans for installation of the technology in urban areas. Its long-term program encompasses not just new meters but also a slew of upgrades to related infrastructure and systems, including distribution networks, transmissions facilities and generating capacity.

The contribution of China’s ambitious expansion plan to the global smart meter market will be further abetted by large-scale roll out programs in France and the United Kingdom, which are not due to take off for at least another year or two.

Differing rates of growth in regional smart meter markets will have a varied impact upon vendors. In North America, big deals are typically winner-take-all, with a single company enjoying all the spoils, thus favouring companies with deeper pockets. In the European market, however, utilities generally prefer to source from multiple suppliers in order to hedge their bets, thus providing greater opportunities to smaller vendors.