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CPUC Targets Privacy Worries
The ruling applies to any services that keep collecting and using data without any active role on the customers’ part.
In response to direction from the state legislature to protect customer data privacy as smart meters are installed, California Public Utility Commission President Michael Peevey issued a notice of proposed decision in Rulemaking 08-12-009 (“Decision Adopting Rules to Protect the Privacy and Security of the Electricity Usage Data of the Customers of Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Southern California Edison Company, and San Diego Gas & Electric Company,” May 6, 2011) concerning the privacy protections expected of California’s jurisdictional investor owned utilities in the handling of customer meter and energy use data from the deployment of smart meters.
The rules are needed to assure customer data privacy is protected while, at the same time, enabling customers to permit access to third-party vendors they approve in order to gain access to and receive competitive bids for energy management, demand response and other customer service applications expected to use smart meter data.
Under the proposed rules, utilities must offer residential customers bill-to-date, bill forecast data, projected month-end tiered rate, a rate calculator, and notifications to customers as they cross rate tiers. They must also work with the CAISO to streamline customer access to wholesale electricity prices. To enforce the new rules, the CPUC will require PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E each to file an advice letter within six months that provides customers with access to usage, price, and billing data. Each utility must also conduct a pilot study within six months to demonstrate how they will provide real-time or near real-time pricing information to customers.
The proposed decision makes California data privacy practices consistent with the best national privacy and security practices adopted by the Department of Homeland Security and with the policies adopted in Senate Bill 1476 approved by the California Legislature and signed by the Governor in September 2010.
How Will the Proposed Data Privacy Rules Work?
■ Customer Data Access Tariffs: California’s big three utilities Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric would file tariffs for CPUC approval that require third parties that seek access to utility customer energy data to agree to follow the same data privacy requirements the CPUC is imposing on the utility.
■ Third Party Compliance with CPUC Data Privacy Rules: The data privacy rules apply to any home device that uses smart meter data and is “locked” into a single provider’s platform or technology but permits customer-owned data sources outside of its authority. The ruling also applies to any services that keep collecting and using data without any active role on the customers’ part, once the customer has given permission to access. This is needed to authorize constant energy management services a customer might contract with an outside vendor such as EnerNOC, Comverge or C-Power to provide.
■ Third Party Registration for Tariff Participation and Utility Deadline for Start-up: Companies that seek to provide services using smart meter data sign up for each utilities’ tariff programs to gain access to the