What could it mean for the future of electric cooperatives if smart devices in their members’ homes or businesses could instantly respond to price signals?

New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, based in Plymouth, is embarking on a multiyear project to test the potential of such technology. As a part of ISO New England, the co-op operates in a power market that includes day-ahead and real-time prices. The goal of its “transactive energy rate” (TER) project is to allow devices such as smart thermostats, hot water heaters, batteries, electric vehicle charging stations or distributed generation to react automatically to price signals based on parameters set by the member.

“Initially, we will make a machine-readable signal available to our members to be able to say, ‘OK, we have a high-priced hour coming tomorrow. We can respond accordingly,” says David Erickson, New Hampshire Electric’s director of access and distributed resources. “We can reduce our use, or [for distributed generation or storage] we can export more power, whatever’s best.”

New Hampshire Electric has an initial pilot under way using water heaters to test two-way communications capabilities. That project will serve as the foundation for the TER program, which will be rolled out to all members by the end of this year.

The co-op is working with the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center National Lab, Post Road Foundation and Knowledge Problem on the software that implements the system. The initial focus, Erickson says, will be on “behind-the-meter batteries and EV chargers, but eventually could encompass a wide array of end-use devices.”

Studies have shown a fully transactive system could result in efficiencies that save up to 15% in costs, Erickson says, benefiting co-ops and their members.

“Our main goal in all of this is maximizing the value members can get from their distribution system.”