Consumers and energy providers have much to gain from the deployment of smart grid technologies, but security and integrity need to be built in from the start.
One example of good practice in this area comes from the United States, where a voluntary code of conduct has been drawn up for utilities and third parties to encourage innovation while protecting the privacy and confidentiality of electricity consumers’ customer data, including energy usage information.
The code of conduct, published earlier this month, took 22 months to compile in a process that involved multiple stakeholders. The resulting document covers a series of key principles, namely:
- Consumer Notice and Awareness. Under the code of conduct, service providers should inform customers about privacy-related policies and practices.
- Customer Choice and Consent. Customers should have some control over access to their own customer data.
- Customer Data Access and Participation. Customers should have access to their own customer data and should have the ability to participate in its maintenance.
- Data Integrity and Security. Customer data should be as accurate as reasonably possible and secured against unauthorised access.
- Self-Enforcement Management and Redress. Enforcement mechanisms should be in place for service providers who adopt the voluntary code of conduct to ensure that they comply with it.
Smart grid technologies are many and varied. They include advanced IT and communication technologies that improve the overall operation of electricity transmission and distribution networks, as well as smart meters and digital sensors that can help utilities quickly identify and minimise the extent of outages when they do occur. And by tapping into the data generated by smart meters, consumers are able to monitor and manage their electricity use in far greater detail.
Since many of these emerging technologies will result in the collection of more data, it’s essential to ensure that this is done in a way that protects consumer privacy.
A code of conduct like this one sets high standards so that customers can be confident their data will be protected.
‘As well as enabling consumers to monitor and manage their energy consumption and assisting network owners to manage the operation of their networks, the availability of this data, subject to appropriate safeguards, will enable the development of alternative business models and exciting new propositions for energy consumers such as time of use tariffs’ Simon Hobday, Energy Partner, Osborne Clarke.