Smart Thermostat Talk Launches Distributed Energy Webinar Series

Randy Sukow


For rural electrics taking a fresh look at Distributed Energy Resources (DERs), smart thermostats may be the best first step. DERs include a number of technologies that address the likely future of energy usage in the home. Nathan Holland, NRTC’s director of Grid Intelligence, recently led a half-hour webinar to review the current state of smart thermostats. It was the first of a three-part DERs webinar series NRTC is presenting to share DERs technology information.

There are a number of reasons why smart thermostats are convenient for cooperatives introducing DERs to their memberships. “A lot of smart thermostats have already been purchased, installed and connected to the internet in co-op territories, which significantly cuts down the cost of starting a program,” Holland said. “You don’t have to go procure hardware; you don’t have to pay somebody to do install it, and you don’t have to manage a communications network. All that stuff’s pretty much already done for you.”

He cited a 2020 study that found 13 percent of broadband-connected homes already have smart thermostats installed and that another 29 percent plan to install them. Cooperatives can simply enroll a device already installed into its program.

NRTC works with AutoGrid to help members deploy smart thermostats and other DERs technologies and programs. NRTC/AutoGrid deployments give control to both the cooperative and homeowners. “If they become uncomfortable, they can just go walk up to the thermostat and manually adjust it to make themselves comfortable,” Holland said. Consumers often experience “fatigue” with thermostat programs that do not offer that level of control, he said.

The AutoGrid Flex platform allows a cooperative to build upon the thermostat program and introduce water heater control, managed charging of electric vehicles, residential battery storage, and other DERs that consumers are likely to demand in the future. Holland described Flex as “a control system that’s designed to specifically handle distributed energy resources … It’s a centralized system to gather all of that data from disparate solutions and technologies and bring them into one system.”

recording of the smart thermostat webinar is available on the NRTC website. Future DERs webinars will look at water heater controls (Oct. 6), and mobile generating systems that allow cooperatives and their larger industrial customers to respond to emergencies (Nov. 3). Each presentation features a short introduction followed by questions and answers. Go to the NRTC Webinars page to register for future DERs presentations.

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