The standard electric meter provides data about how much electricity is used over a defined timeframe, but smart meters provide additional details about consumption.  Do you know which home appliances use the most electricity?   For the vast majority of Americans, the answer is no.  There’s a quote that I’ll reword:  you can manage what you measure, the rest is guesswork.  Without details about energy use, you can’t take actions to reduce or revise use of your home’s electricity guzzlers.  If you are familiar with the Prius effect – drivers who see their energy consumption while they are driving modify their braking, acceleration, and cruising patterns to improve their gas efficiency – then you can understand how powerful it would be to have similar information about our home energy use. 

Smart Grid technologies give us the detailed information to modify home operations for the benefits of reduced energy bills, reduced carbon emissions, and improved energy security.  Existing meters retrofitted with readers or smart meters deliver the granularity we currently lack about our use of anything that draws electricity.  Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) offer portals to conveniently monitor and manage energy consumption using this detailed information.   Saving money on my utility bill, saving the environment, and building energy security – what’s not to like about these compelling benefits?

There’s only one downside – there’s an amazing amount of lifestyle information that can be extrapolated with granular energy consumption data from any residence.  In the traditional electricity grid, we have always been data producers and utilities have always been the data consumers – gathering kilowatthour (KWh) data so it can charge us for our electricity use.  The Smart Grid delivers a richer data set and the potential for new commercial uses of personal energy consumption data.   The pool of data consumers of our personal energy information may grow well beyond the traditional utilities, and we as the data producers need to consider these questions:

  1. Who “owns” my personal energy consumption data? 
  2. What rules govern its availability, storage, and disposal? 
  3. Who makes these rules and how are they enforced? 
  4. What are potential commercial uses of my personal energy consumption data? 

The rules about privacy of this new data need to be developed so that we as the data producers ensure smart management of its consumption.  Fortunately, there is work underway to create data privacy recommendations as part of the National Institute of Standards (NIST) Smart Grid Cyber Security Strategy and Requirements initiative.  Next week’s blog will discuss some possible answers to the questions listed here.

Shout Out

Congratulations to the state of California’s Building Standards Commission, which adopted CALGreen, a mandatory green building standards code which takes effect on January 1, 2011.  CALGreen requires inspections of energy systems in non-residential buildings over 10K sq ft, 20% reductions in water consumption, 50% diversion of construction waste from landfills, and use of materials that reduce indoor pollution.   The CALGreen program is a first for the USA, and let’s see if other states adopt similar measures, and go one better by mandating the same measures for residential buildings.  Go here for more information.