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Land of Lincoln leading the nation: An information bill of rights for smart meter customers

20140818_DataAccess_fbIllinois could become the first state to require electric utilities to give customers quick and easy access to their own energy-usage data, under a proposal filed with state regulators by the Environmental Defense Fund and CUB.

The is a key time for Illinois electric customers, as ComEd and Ameren launch historic upgrades to the power grid, including the installation of new digital meters which could give consumers helpful data about their own energy usage.

CUB likes the potential of the technology, but we’re not crazy about the yearly rate hikes the companies are getting to complete the upgrades. That’s why we’re doing everything we can to reduce the yearly increases, and we’re pushing the utilities to live up to their promise to build a better power grid that actually benefits consumers.

Friday’s filing with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) is one example.

The proposal, called the “Open Data Access Framework,” amounts to an information bill of rights for smart meter customers. It would:

  • set a minimum state regulatory standard to ensure customers quickly and easily obtain data–how much electricity they use and when–in convenient, user-friendly formats (either directly from the smart meter or through the Internet or mobile applications).
  • declare that utilities should provide data in real time if accessed directly from the smart meter, or within an hour if through the Internet.
  • set in stone the idea that the customer is the principal owner of data about their own home energy usage, and that the utility is the guardian of that data.

(See additional CUB/EDF testimony on the framework.)

If done right, the smart grid upgrades should pay for themselves in consumer benefits. But you can’t build a better power grid without giving consumers their own data quickly and easily. That “opens the door for bigger and better demand response, energy efficiency, and renewable energy programs,” CUB’s David Kolata said. “That’s the key to making energy more affordable and reliable.”

CUB hopes the ICC approves the proposal by this spring.