The Vermont state legislature has voted to eliminate smart meter opt out fees, forcing state utilities to provide customers an opt out option for free. As part of its plan to roll out about 160,000 smart meters to customers in its territory, Central Vermont Public Service had proposed to charge customers who chose to opt out of having smart meter a $10 fee. The recently-approved legislation allows for customers to "choose not to have a wireless smart meter installed, at no additional monthly or other charge." Customers can ask for the removal of a previously installed wireless smart meter for any reason and must not be charged for the removal. Additionally, the legislation requires utilities to provide prior written notice to customers indicating that the smart meter will use radio or other wireless means for two-way communication between the meter and the company, and informing customers of their rights under the new law. Furthermore, the bill also puts a requirement for studies related to smart meters to be submitted to lawmakers. To that end, the Vermont Department of Public Service is to prepare a report on the cost-savings associated with smart meters, while also addressing any issues of security breaches because of the wireless smart meters, that is due to the legislature by January 1, 2014.
The Michigan Public Service Commission has launched an investigation into Michigan utility companies that install smart meters after concerns were raised by electric customers and municipalities over the practice. The Commission noted that "at least nine local communities across Michigan" have called for such an action by the state agency.
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State Commissions appear to be accepting a standard approach to customer data access and privacy. The recent Colorado Public Utilities Commission decision on data privacy follows the earlier California Public Utilities Commission decision, in that they both agree that utilities have a right to collect and use customer data to provide regulated utility services. However, a distinction is being made between the data that the utility and utility affiliates need for forecasting and billing services from the data used by non-utility third parties. Additionally, the Commissions also note that utilities have a right to this data without customer consent, but this consent is required when it comes to third party users.
Is this the model that will be seen all over the country as more states adopt utility data privacy guidelines? Do they address utility and customer concerns for data access and security? An upcoming UTC webinar featuring a California utility and PUC official, as well as a Maryland utility and a consumer advocate will discuss the issues that these data privacy decisions by state regulators address. Additionally, the speakers will discuss how utilities can work with their customers to address privacy and security concerns stemming from such user data access. Attendees will also be able to discuss their utility and vendor perspectives on this issue. To learn more, contact email@example.com.
The Colorado Public Utilities Commission has issued a list of recommended smart grid data privacy rules that subject utilities to a whole range of requirements, and penalties up to $2000 per violation. The document also gives utilities up to 20 days to file their objections, and if no exceptions are received, the rules will become law. The rules would require utilities to explain their data collection processes, the frequency of data collection and the security measures that will be taken to ensure privacy of customers. Additionally, the utilities would be expected to provide this data to anyone authorized by the customers, with no charge to the customers or recipients.
Late last week the New York Public Service Commission issued a policy statement that recommends (among other things) that utilities consider using carrier networks for smart grid. Specifically, the PSC stated that “[w]e expect that smart grid technologies will utilize a hybrid of both public and private networks. We urge the electric utilities and communication providers to work together to ensure the appropriate use of commercial facilities, and to limit utility capital investments in dedicated communications infrastructure to those functions where it is appropriate.” Read more »
One of the biggest challenges facing the deployment of smart grids is inadequate consumer education, which is in some cases is worsened by "over-hyping" the benefits of the smart grid. This general consensus came from UTC Smart Grid Policy Summit, a two-day conference held this week in Washington, DC that featured panel discussions with key policy makers, regulators, utilities and industry associations. While the panels debated issues such as the role of state vs. federal regulators in setting smart grid policy and the pressures of cost-recovery, many of the panels often returned to the need for consumer awareness and trust. Opening Keynote Speaker, Joe Rigby, CEO and Chairman of PEPCO, addressed this concern by discussing his utility's successful pilot programs that were implemented in collaboration with state regulators and consumer groups and showed that consumers do respond positively to dynamic pricing. However, he did note that duplicating the results of a pilot in a larger territory roll-out was not easy. Read more »
The New York State Public Service Commission is seeking information to develop cutting-edge regulatory policies that will be needed to encourage the development of the smart grid and the overall modernization of the electric grid.
Chairman Garry Brown says the smart grid promises “the deployment of new technologies that could help utilities become more efficient and help modernize the existing transmission and distribution grid. If done smartly, with a close eye toward future possibilities, this modernization will help utilities streamline and manage their operations while empowering consumers with a far-greater ability to control electricity consumption and costs. This would clearly be a win for all parties.”
In addition to comments from traditional utilities, the Commission is soliciting input from telecommunication companies, computer software and hardware providers, internet developers, consumer advocates and other interested parties as it moves forward with developing its smart grid technology road map.
When the proceedings are finished, the Commission’s findings may be obtained by going to the Documents section of the Commission’s Web site at www.dps.state.ny.us and entering case number 09-M-0074 or 10-E-0285.
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