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US rural cooperative group ‘harnesses value of distributed energy resources’ with AutoGrid

Various smart and Internet of Things-enabled distributed energy resources devices including home battery storage from Sonnen (pictured) can be connected to NRTC’s ‘Bring your own things’ (BYOT) programme via AutoGrid Flex. Image: Sonnen.

Flexibility management software company AutoGrid has struck a deal to supply its distributed energy resources management system (DERMS) platform to NRTC, a cooperative association serving more around 20 million homes in rural America.

NRTC – the National Rural Telecommunications Council – represents utilities in 48 US states, including around 800 electric and 700 telephone utility groups and companies serving around 50 million people in about 20 million houses. These utilities will use AutoGrid’s platform, AutoGrid Flex, in programmes where customers can add their smart thermostats, water heaters, solar PV systems, electric vehicles – and of course energy storage – to their energy providers’ networks.

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Utilities will therefore be able to use these distributed energy resources (DERs) to perform grid services, ranging from demand response and load-shifting, to peak demand management, renewables integration “and other forms of artificial intelligence-based analytics and optimisation capabilities,” AutoGrid said.

It is of course, a critical ability for utilities in managing their networks to be able to monitor and potentially control customer demand, while in return, using smart devices and the Internet of Things (IOT), residential customers can lower their energy costs.

“NRTC’s members require technology that is reliable, cost effective, open, and scalable to meet their current and future needs. We look forward to continuing our leadership in helping members provide affordable, reliable and sustainable energy by leveraging the Artificial Intelligence capabilities in AutoGrid Flex platform to manage an increasingly distributed and renewable powered grid,” Smart Grid Solutions President for NRTC, Greg Bartolomei, said.

AutoGrid’s General Manager for New Energy, Rahul Kar, told that the US’ electric cooperatives are the “energy innovation laboratories” for the country’s electric system. He highlighted the importance of energy storage in the partnership with NRTC. Rahul Kar previously told that one of the challenges for AutoGrid in adding battery storage to such platforms was the need to co-optmise batteries i.e. making sure they have not only the capacity but also the capability to be used for 'front-of-meter' tasks to benefit the network and grid provider, as well as providing home backup and solar self-consumption applications to benefit the customer behind-the-meter of the utility. 

“[Energy] storage is a key strategic resource for grid optimisation and planning, and NRTC will be able to offer the benefits of storage co-optimisation and value stacking to more than 1,500 rural electric and telephone utilities that it represents,” Rahul Kar of AutoGrid said, adding that the company's network of installers that work on solar and storage projects should also be able to help accelerate the adoption of clean energy by offering customers leasing and financing options. 

AutoGrid Flex is compatible with devices from a range of vendors, including Google and its thermostat product Google Nest, Honeywell, ecobee, Schneider Electric, Emerson and ChargePoint and various Internet of Things device brands as well as batteries from makers including Sonnen.

“The transformation to a more decentralised, flexible grid must take into account every part of the country, and this agreement with NRTC represents a huge swath of this needed transformation,” AutoGrid founder and CEO Amit Narayan said.

“We are honoured to partner with NRTC to offer cooperative utilities across the U.S. our advanced flexibility management technology.” 

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