Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Post # 55 -- Smart Meter Privacy Remains a Major Concern

IDC Energy Insights, a Massachusetts-based research and consulting firm, has released a new study – Utility CIOs: Living in a Smart Grid World – presenting results from a survey of "North American utility executive IT leaders." While generally focussed on the role of IT specialists in their companies' smart grid initiatives, the study (summarized here) shows that privacy fears remain in the hearts of many utility customers.

Indeed, according to the survey, privacy has emerged as the number one concern related to data security and management, with data governance as an emerging concern. As utilities implement new initiatives such as smart metering, data volumes are expected to increase significantly. While management and integration of this data are themselves priorities, IDC's respondents overwhelmingly reported data privacy as the key element of IT strategic plans for security. In particular, the study found that customers have a great deal of concern about how their data is being used and distributed.

Beyond the issue of privacy, IDC finds that most utilities have an strategic plan for information technology that takes smart grid into account. However, and surprisingly, one third of the utilities surveyed stated that their IT departments are not involved in developing business cases for new initiatives such as renewable generation, energy efficiency, smarter distribution grids, and smart metering. In fact, in the case of 13% of utilities, IT does not become involved until the project is well under way.

On wonder whether this lack of upfront engagement by utilities with their IT professionals -- which in a curious way mirrors many utilities' lack of upfront engagement with their customers on smart grid issues -- is the cause of at least some of the difficulties utilities have encountered when trying to convince their customers (and regulators) of the benefits of smart meters and other smart technologies.

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