New smart meter privacy guidelines restrict suppliers’ access to data

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has proposed tough new measures that would restrict how suppliers and network operators access and use consumer data obtained via smart meters.

For instance, suppliers of gas or electricity could end up only having access to monthly energy consumption data, which they could only use for billing purposes.

Daily access to energy consumption data for other uses, except marketing, will only be available to suppliers where consumers have not opted out.

Further to this, suppliers must also ensure they have explicit consent, from customers, if they want to access half-hourly energy consumption data, or to use the data for consumption purposes.

Other uses of the consumption data may include to better detect and prevent theft of energy, help consumers manage their debts and set tailored tariffs.

“Consumers’ interests must be protected in the smart metering world. Concerns about privacy have been raised in many countries rolling out smart meters, and it will be important to give consumers clarity and reassurance about the ways in which their energy consumption data can be accessed, by whom, for which purposes, and the choices that consumers have about this,” reads the consultation document.

Network operators also want access to as much data as possible to help fulfil obligations to plan, build and operate networks in the most effective way possible.

The operators would like access to half-hourly consumption data, where they state it could be aggregated and anonymised, but are being asked to submit plans for approval to the government on how this could be achieved.

The government is preparing for a mass rollout of smart meters in 2014, and has proposed that 30 million homes and small businesses in the UK will have smart meters by 2019.

There are a number of smart meter projects being carried out in the UK at the moment, all of which vary in technical detail.

For instance, British Gas is working with O2 on rolling out smart meters where a SIM card is installed directly into the meter itself and information is sent in a similar fashion to data used on mobile phones.

However, BT and Arqiva have joined forces to propose a dedicated long range radio network for the UK, which they say will provide benefits over using a mobile phone network, as range and capacity are greater.

IBM and Cable & Wireless have also collaborated to offer a ‘smart energy cloud’, which aims to be a cloud based hub for smart meter data and will centre on IBM WebSphere messaging and an Informix database, using the C&W network.

In other news, British Gas has revealed that it will have to replace some of its 200,000 already rolled out domestic smart meters, due to new requirements published by the government.


Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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