Thursday, August 18, 2011

Smart Grid Privacy - Protecting Customer Energy Usage Data

Can private details about your sleep, work, and travel behavior be revealed by your energy usage?

This may sound like science fiction, but today's smart meters could provide sufficient energy usage data to make it science fact. To address this emerging privacy concern the California Public Utilities Commission recently adopted privacy and security rules for Smart Grid energy usage data.
"The availability of Smart Grid data can help make the energy industry more service oriented. However, we must ensure that consumers and their data are protected from abuse." - Mark J. Ferron, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)
The challenge is to both protect the privacy of customer usage data while simultaneously enabling data sharing between customers, utilities, and authorized third parties allow them to improve energy management and conservation.
Managing the privacy of customer energy has many characteristics in common with managing the privacy of medical data. Both types of data when shared with the appropriate parties are invaluable for improving process and results. But both sets of data can be abused in a way that violates the norms of personal privacy.
The Key Sections of the Rule
The key section of the rule prohibit electrical corporations (covered entities) from sharing or disclosing a customer’s energy consumption data (covered information), except as specified, and require such utilities to protect a customer’s unencrypted energy consumption data from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure.

Moreover, electrical corporation must notify the utility commission within two weeks of any breaches affecting 1,000 or more customers. All breaches, regardless of size, must be reported annually.

Who is Covered by the Rule
These privacy rules apply to Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E), Southern California Edison Company (SCE), and San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E), companies working with the utilities, and other companies that have access to customer usage data directly from the utility.

Your Thoughts
What are your thoughts on this rule? What lessons learned from healthcare privacy should be considered in energy consumption privacy?
Learn how an online service proactively detects breaches of energy data privacy, even by authorized insiders- with no hardware and no on-site software.
Sources:
(a) CPUC adopts rules to protect the privacy and security of customer electricity usage data - Public Utilities Commission of the State of California, July, 2011
(b) Order Instituting Rulemaking to Consider Smart Grid Technologies Pursuant to Federal Legislation and on the Commission's own Motion to Actively Guide Policy in California's Development of a Smart Grid System (pdf) - Public Utilities Commission of the State of California, July, 2011
(c) Attachments to the Order Instituting Rulemaking to Consider Smart Grid Technologies Pursuant to Federal Legislation and on the Commission's own Motion to Actively Guide Policy in California's Development of a Smart Grid System (pdf) - Public Utilities Commission of the State of California, July, 2011

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