The power industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by the need for power infrastructure improvements, increased efficiency and productivity and lowering of the carbon footprint, and growing importance of technologies such as smart metering, grid modernisation and digitalisation of power distribution infrastructure. In the last three years alone, there have been over 439,000 patents filed and granted in the power industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Environment Sustainability in Power: Smart grid applications. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

90+ innovations will shape the power industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the power industry using innovation intensity models built on over 83,000 patents, there are 90+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, smart lighting system, PCM Thermal Energy Storage and solid electrolyte fuel cell membrane are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Ceramic oxide nuclear fuel, geothermal heat pumps, and hybrid PV plants are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are combined cycle gas turbines and ethylene co-polymer PV modules, which are now well established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for environmental sustainability in the power industry

Smart grid applications is a key innovation area in environmental sustainability

Smart grids utilise IT and communication modules to collect, transmit and analyse data in real-time scenario to facilitate optimisation of energy utilisation, planning, efficiency and reliability. Smart grid applications can develop various demand response programmes to manage customer loads and reduced demand peaks along with new types of demand and additional distributed generation.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies.  According to GlobalData, there are 20+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established power companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of smart grid applications.

Key players in smart grid applications – a disruptive innovation in the power industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to smart grid applications

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Causam Energy 109 Unlock Company Profile
Itron 59 Unlock Company Profile
Signify 43 Unlock Company Profile
Enel 35 Unlock Company Profile
Corinex Communications 30 Unlock Company Profile
Trilliant Holdings 18 Unlock Company Profile
LG 14 Unlock Company Profile
Kerlink 11 Unlock Company Profile
Toshiba 10 Unlock Company Profile
Valmont Industries 10 Unlock Company Profile
AT&T 10 Unlock Company Profile
Microchip Technology 10 Unlock Company Profile
Miitors 9 Unlock Company Profile
Carbontrack 8 Unlock Company Profile
Consert 8 Unlock Company Profile
Duke Energy 8 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 8 Unlock Company Profile
Itron Global 8 Unlock Company Profile
NEC 7 Unlock Company Profile
Alphabet 6 Unlock Company Profile
Electro Industries/GaugeTech 6 Unlock Company Profile
Nouvenn 5 Unlock Company Profile
Orison 5 Unlock Company Profile
Qualcomm 5 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Enel, an Italian multinational manufacturer and distributor of electricity and gas, is a leading patent filter. The company is reinforcing and expanding its grids through Grid Futurability®, a global and customer-oriented industrial approach. Enel is investing in urban and rural areas to harmonise short-term and long-term strategic goals, maximise benefits and lower the carbon footprint. Recently in April 2022, Enel’s subsidiary Gridspertise signed a collaboration agreement with Hera Group for the development of smart grids through a state-of-the-art integrated system for collection and measurement of data from their respective networks in a multi-utility environment.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the power industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Power.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.