Sunday, July 31, 2011

Post # 77 - California PUC Adopts New Smart Meter Privacy Rules

In late 2009. the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ruled that the big three investor-owned utilities in California -- Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric -- would have to provide their customers with real-time residential usage data through smart meters by the end of 2011. Last spring, following extensive stakeholder debate, the CPUC released proposed smart meter privacy rules.

Now, in a decision issued last week, the CPUC issued final smart meter privacy rules. Among other things, the rules require the three utilities to:

1. Provide customers with detailed energy usage, bill-to-date, month-end bill forecast, and projected month-end energy price on their websites – updated daily. Moreover, the information must be available with hourly or 15-minute granularity -- matching the time granularity programmed into a smart meter.

2. Provide "tier alerts" via some form of rapid communication (email, tweets, etc.) when customers move from one price tier to the next.

3. Provide a website calculator to help consumers determine if they would save money by switching to a time-of-use rate

4. Allow consumers to authorize third parties to receive their backhauled smart meter data directly from the utility.

5. Set up a program to roll out home area networking devices to be directly connected with smart meters.

The CPUC said that data on energy consumption generated by smart meters and transmitted by the smart grid will prove critical to future conservation and grid management efforts. The CPUC asserts that enabling consumers and companies to assess and act on this information is key to advancing many of California's energy policies, such as promoting conservation, reducing demand in response to grid events and price signals, reducing summer peak demands, and efficiently incorporating renewable energy and electric vehicles into grid operations.

PG&E, SCE and SDG&E will now have six months to implement the requirements. In the meantime, the CPUC will be exploring whether the new rules should also apply to electric service providers (non-utility entities that offer electric service to customers within the service territory of an electric utility) and community choice aggregators (programs within the the service area of investor-owned utilities that allow cities and counties to buy and/or generate electricity for their residents and businesses).

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