Early last month, the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) requested comments on consumer interfaces with the Smart Grid. The inquiry is particularly focused on smart meters, ownership of smart meter data, consumer access to real time price data, and the ability of consumers (or different classes of consumers) to manage peak and overall energy usage using smart technology.
The OSTP is not a rulemaking body. Rather, the OSTP exists to provide the Executive Branch with scientific and technical advice and to help coordinate Executive Branch efforts in the area of science and technology. For that reason, the OSTP inquiry will not result in new rules or regulations. However, the inquiry could well lead to policy initiatives that the Administration may undertake -- through the Department of Energy, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, etc.
But of perhaps greater importance, the OSTP inquiry really seems to be the first Federal inquiry that is exclusively focused on the consumer end. Of particular interest -- to me, at least -- will be OSTP's conclusions regarding smart meter data access and ownership issues. That is one of the real "sleeper" issues presented by the Smart Grid. Smart meters will gather a lot of interesting (and potentially commercially valuable) household usage information. Who will that data belong to? The local utility? The home owner? The OSTP inquiry could prove to be a very important forum on that.
Note: OSTP will also be looking at smart grid "architectural" questions and data communications standards for consumer appliances (and other devices) that will communicate with the Smart Grid.