With the final approval of a $33.9 million matching grant to the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association from the Department of Energy, 19 electric cooperatives now embark on a unique, nationwide demonstration project deploying more than 153,000 smart grid components across the country to test the value of the new technologies for cooperative consumer members.

Authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the smart grid research grants, together with the $3.4 billion in smart grid investment grants, are part of a federal initiative to identify and develop new and more effective smart grid technologies.

“Cooperatives lead the industry in the deployment of smart meter infrastructure and can help drive the effort to modernize the nation’s electrical system using new technologies,” said NRECA CEO Glenn English. “Our cooperatives will be evaluating how and whether these technologies can assist them in their mission to provide safe, reliable and affordable electric power to their member-consumers,” English said.

Electric distribution cooperatives, which range in size from a few hundred to more than 200,000 meters, will evaluate potential benefits of new technologies that could help increase operational efficiencies and improve service. On the other side of the meter, co-ops will also test new programs that help consumers manage electric bills.

Cooperatives are well-positioned to advance the implementation of a smart grid. According to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, cooperatives’ advanced metering penetration increased from 3.8 percent in 2006 to 16.4 percent in 2008 – well above the industry as a whole. According to research conducted by NRECA, approximately half of cooperatives have installed at least some advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) on their systems, and some 30 percent of cooperatives have begun to integrate their AMI with other systems on their grid.

The cooperatives’ demonstration project represents the first opportunity to conduct a nationwide pilot extending and testing end-to-end connectivity – from the power plant to the consumer’s home – and interoperability using MultiSpeak®, a specification developed by NRECA through the MultiSpeak Initiative. This project will extend the MultiSpeak specification to new functions and applications and include cybersecurity in the testing process. Cyber security consultants SAIC and Cigital will work with the cooperatives to explore security issues surrounding enhanced interoperability and connectivity.

Participating cooperatives:

  • Adams Electric Cooperative (IL)
  • Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative (WI)
  • Clarke Electric Cooperative, Inc. (IA)
  • Consumers Energy (IA)
  • Corn Belt Power Cooperative (IA)
  • Calhoun County Electric Cooperative Association (Corn Belt Power Member, IA)
  • Humboldt County Rural Electric Cooperative (Corn Belt Power Member, IA)
  • Iowa Lakes Electric Cooperative (Corn Belt Power Member, IA)
  • Prairie Energy Cooperative (Corn Belt Power Member, IA)
  • Delaware County Electric Co-op (NY)
  • Flint EMC (GA)
  • Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (HI)
  • Menard Electric Cooperative (IL)
  • New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NH)
  • Nolin RECC (KY)
  • Owen Electric Cooperative, Inc. (KY)
  • Salt River Electric Cooperative (KY)
  • Snapping Shoals EMC (GA)
  • United REMC (IN)
  • Washington-St. Tammany Electric Cooperative (LA)