What is the "Smart Grid"?
The electric grid is one of the greatest inventions of all time. In over a century it has completely revolutionized life on Earth. However, it has not received an upgrade since electricity was first transmitted over a power line in 1882. Many utilities, state governments, public utility commissions, and even the Federal government have been working on giving the electric grid a face-lift by investing in the "smart grid". The smart grid is a compilation of different technologies and utility policies. It is comprised of smart meters, demand response and automation, energy efficiency, distributed generation, and electric vehicles.  All of these parts together are expected to make great advancements for reliability, security, the economy, and the environment.
The smart grid increases communication between the utility and its customers through the use of smart meters that collect and transmit energy usage data. In addition to automation and increased communication, according to the Department of Energy, smart grid customers will enjoy economic benefits through the avoided cost of construction of power plants, transmission lines and substations over 20 years could save $46 billion to $117 billion. Additionally, increased energy efficiency, renewable energy and distributed generation could save an estimated $36 billion annually by 2025. Distributed generation can significantly reduce transmission-congestion costs, currently estimated at $4.8 billion annually. Smart appliances costing $600 million can provide as much reserve capacity to the grid as power plants worth $6 billion.
What is "Smart Grid Data"?
Currently, utilities do not have much information about real-time customer electricity usage. The only information a utility currently collects is from analog meters that a utility usually reads only once a month. The smart grid greatly increases data about customer electricity use. The average home could generate 750 to 3,000 data points each month. This creates more granular data about electricity consumption. Indeed, smart meters are capable of keeping a real-time, live, streaming conversation with the utility, although most utilities receive information in intervals of about 15 minutes. Larger customers may collect information on a more frequent basis.
Smart data can be used in many different ways to decrease electricity consumption, and thus electricity generation. This is generally beneficial for the environment because most of our electricity comes from fossil fuel sources like coal and natural gas. Smart Grid deployment is one feasible approach to climate change mitigation. However, the advantages created by the smart grid do have a social cost. The increased information produced by smart meters has created serious privacy concerns.
What concerns electricity customers is that smart data can paint a detailed picture about daily behaviors and habits inside homes and businesses. When data is created in real time, it is not very hard to tell the difference between the refrigerator and the clothes dryer because the known kilowatt output of one appliance can be compared to another. Customers worry that data about their electricity use could be volunteered to the government or sold to third parties at profit. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EIPC), which is a public interest research center in Washington, D.C., has created a list of "potential privacy consequences of Smart Grid systems:"
1. Identity Theft
2. Determine Personal Behavior Patterns
3. Determine Specific Appliances Used
4. Perform Real-Time Surveillance
5. Reveal Activities Through Residual Data
6. Targeted Home Invasions (latch key children, elderly, etc.)
7. Provide Accidental Invasions
8. Activity Censorship
9. Decisions and Actions Based Upon Inaccurate Data
11. Unwanted Publicity and Embarrassment
12. Tracking Behavior of Renters/Leasers
13. Behavior Tracking (possible combination with Personal Behavior Patterns)
14. Public Aggregated Searches Revealing Individual Behavior
This list helps explain why so many consumers are concerned that smart meters may not be net beneficial. Some consumers are worried that these harms could outweigh any environmental or economic benefits that come to fruition. Utilities must address smart meter data concerns to guarantee privacy.
1. Make Privacy the default setting.
2. Provide complete privacy protection
3. Know the law regarding public disclosure in your state.
4. Only store/ provide access to necessary information.
5. Obtain written consent before disclosing to most third parties.
6. Educate customers about the implications of sharing data with third parties.
7. Notify customers when data is disclosed.
8. Develop a plan for contingencies.
 Bulk Electricity Grid Beginnings, Ken Klapp, New York Independent Service Operator (NYISO), Available at http://www.pearlstreetinc.com/NYISO_bulk_elect_beginnings.pdf
 RG Pratt, et al. Unites States Department of Energy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, The Smart Grid: An
Estimation of the Energy and CO2 Benefits (2010). Available at http://energyenvironment.pnnl.gov/news/pdf/PNNL-19112_Revision_1_Final.pdf
 Chris Cooper and Kevin B. Jones, Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and the Environment, ComEd's Smart Grid Innovation Corridor: Piloting the Regulatory Environment in Illinois. Available at http://vermontlaw.edu/Documents/ComEd%20Case%20Study%20Final.pdf
 Annual Energy Outlook 2012, United States Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (2012) Available at http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/0383%282012%29.pdf
 The Smart Grid and Privacy, The Electronic Privacy Information Center. Available at http://epic.org/privacy/smartgrid/smartgrid.html#char
 Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27 (2001)
 Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003).
 Union Pacific Railway company v. Botsford, 141 U.S. 250 (1891).
 This case is currently working its way through the Federal Courts out of California. The plaintiffs claim Google violates the Federal Wiretap Act. In re Google Inc. Street View Electronic Communications Litigation, 794 F.Supp.2d 1067 2011).
 This case asserts that Facebook used posts and information about certain users to advertise or make money without the user's permission. Fraley v. Facebook, Inc. For more information visit http://www.fraleyfacebooksettlement.com/
 A class action suit has been brought against Yahoo!. The class alleges Yahoo! failed to deploy basic protections to protect users' personal information. As a result, the class members' personal information was publicly posted online. See the Law Firm's website: http://www.girardgibbs.com/yahoo-data-breach.
 Colin R. Hagan and Katie R. Thomas, Presentation to the Legal Seminar of the American Public Power Association, Vermont Law School Institute for Energy and the Environment (2011). Available at http://www.vermontlaw.edu/Documents/APPA%20Presentation.pdf
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