U.S. DOE reports on smart grid data access and privacy issues and communication requirements


Scott Blake
Harris, DOE
General Counsel
Washington, DC, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — October 13, 2010 – The United States Department of Energy last week issued two reports on key policy issues raised by smart grid technologies – data access and privacy issues and the communications requirements.

The reports were prepared as a response to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) National Broadband Plan, and were informed by Requests for Information and public meetings.

The report, Data Access and Privacy Issues Related to Smart Grid Technologies, focuses on how legal and regulatory regimes are evolving to protect consumer privacy and choice while promoting the growth of innovative energy management services and technologies that rely on detailed energy usage data. It found that consumer education about the benefits of smart grid and the use of smart grid technologies will be of significant important to the success of smart grid. However, the pace of consumer education should not be outpaced by the pace of deployment, which will also be important.

The report also found general consensus on the requirement of authorized third parties to protect the privacy and security of consumer data. However, there was less consensus on issues such as how consumers should authorize third party access and whether utilities could charge a fee for providing third party access to consumer energy data. State certification requirements for third parties also remained an open issue.

The report, Communications Requirements of Smart Grid Technologies, examines how the communications needs of utilities and the electrical grid are likely to evolve as smart grid technologies become more widely used. It recommends that to improve overall coordination, utilities and other smart grid constituents should be represented on key federal industry committees that address communications and network related security and reliability issues.

Further, the DOE will seek to work with both the FCC and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to review possibilities for spectrum access to accommodate smart grid needs, either through sharing frequencies with others users, leasing spectrum, or other alternatives.

Commenting on the reports, DOE general counsel Scott Blake Harris said: “These reports will allow the Department to better inform a dialogue with state and federal officials as they implement and deploy smart grid technologies that will help create good paying jobs, save consumers money and encourage rapid growth in renewable energies like wind and solar.”

The DOE said it proposes to create a web portal to act as a clearinghouse for data and information on smart grid data access and protection, and it also may consider establishing an online clearinghouse for smart grid communications technology applications to serve as a resource for utilities to share “lessons learned”.