Energy Efficiency and Privacy
Smart meters are capable of delivering a wealth of information regarding a customer's energy usage. This data holds the promise of current and future benefits, the most basic being that knowledge will affect change. The theory is the more customers understand the correlation between their behavior and energy spending, the more likely they will make adjustments that yield an overall positive impact on their wallets and the environment. (I have all kinds of information that does not always translate into action...like, um, my diet, but OK. That's the theory.) Additionally, this data offers greater opportunities for optimizing energy efficiency programs. The inability for energy efficiency service providers ("EESPs") to gain access to customers' data because of legitimate privacy concerns creates a barrier to realizing many of the benefits from these services. Often, regulatory commissions confront two competing issues: (1) the need to facilitate access to customer data for energy efficiency purposes while (2) safeguarding customer privacy. The State and Local Energy Efficiency Action Network's Customer Information and Behavior (CIB) Working Group has created a Regulator’s Privacy Guide to Third-Party Data Access for Energy Efficiency. Utilities and state regulators will find the report helpful. It discusses the issues and policy considerations related to providing access to customer information while supporting energy efficiency services and protecting customers' privacy.
The report is filled with helpful information, like Figure ES-1 shown below. It provides an overview of some states’ approaches to standards for customer consent and identifies the types of non-utility entities that may want access to a customer’s energy usage data.
The State and Local Energy Efficiency Action Network (SEE Action) is a state and local-led effort facilitated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to take energy efficiency to scale and achieve all cost-effective energy efficiency by 2020. Many will want to bookmark its website, as it offers a wealth of research, data sheets and policy papers that Utilities, Regulators, EESPs, Customer Advocates and Customers will find helpful.