Co-ops Begin Research on Utility-Connected Home

The co-ops’ national trade association is working with Dakota State University on a Connected Home Research Project to find ways that co-ops can help their members save energy and money. Photo Courtesy: East River Electric Cooperative.

Electric cooperatives are researching the best ways to connect to smart homes in their service territories. The nonprofit utilities recently launched a Connected Home Research Project through a partnership between the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and Dakota State University in South Dakota.

The university, a national leader in technology and cybersecurity education, is creating a “home hub” that would allow the growing number of smart devices in consumer-members’ homes to communicate with co-ops to save energy and money.

From WiFi thermostats to smart appliances, there is increased adoption of smart home technologies among co-op consumer-members. Those devices can help manage electricity usage and benefit consumers, but there is a gap between the capabilities of those technologies and the ability of the local electric co-op to connect to those technologies, if the consumer wants that kind of assistance.

Co-op directors and employees attending the NRECA Annual Meeting in March will see a model of a utility-connected home. It will include a home hub that gives consumer-members a dashboard to access their smart home devices. It also connects to the co-op so that the co-op can learn a member’s preferences and make energy adjustments depending on when the consumer used electricity.