Friday, March 5, 2010

Post # 4 - Who Owns Your Data?

As mentioned in my prior post, one of the most interesting issues posed by Smart Grid technology is data ownership. While overall Smart Grid development will take some time, and the benefits of a true Smart Grid remain focused in the "land of potential," many utilities are moving full speed ahead with smart meter installation. And smart meters, once operable, will by definition provide utilities with abundant information about their individual customers' energy use -- what appliances they run, when they run them, etc. And that is not a bad thing, because that information will greatly enhance utility efficiency.

But that type of information obviously has great potential commercial benefits -- and value. And not just to the utility, but to all sorts of vendors and advertisers. This, in turn, raises a series of questions, including:
  • Who owns this data? The utility? The customer?
  • Can the utility sell the data to third parties?
  • What data does the utility really need for planning/operational purposes?
  • What data do grid operators and markets who interface with the distribution utility really need for planning/operational purposes?
  • How will this data be kept secure? Will anyone be able to do a Google search for "energy usage" at the home of John Doe at 555 ABC Street, New York, NY?
That debate is going on right now in a forum created by the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy (see prior post), and the comments to date can be viewed here.
This debate, and not just in the OSTP forum, will be going on for a long time. One thing seems, clear, however. Whether consumers ready or not -- or even fully aware of the fact -- smart meters are important new information portals that can take whoever has access right into a consumers home.

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