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White Paper

Ain’t No Party Like an Nth Party

Diagram by Flux Tailor and Mission:data

Regulation and technology solutions intended to enable data sharing in the energy industry often only consider "third parties". However, this is not an accurate representation of how energy data is really shared in the market today. To enable energy services, there is, more often than not, more than just a third party involved in customer-authorized energy data sharing.

In our new white paper, “3rd Parties and Beyond: Promoting Innovation Through Energy Data Sharing with "Nth Parties" Flux Tailor and Mission:data Coalition refer to these organizations as — yes, you guessed it right — “Nth parties.”  Download the free, 20-page paper by clicking here or on the “White Paper” button below. With this paper, we aim to assist policymakers in crafting sensible, targeted, and consistent privacy rules that do not unfairly penalize private sector innovations or digital outsourcing. We also recommend technology solutions including automated access to bill data that avoids web scraping and centralized, cascading authorizations that enable more customer centric and seamless data sharing with Nth parties. We welcome collaboration with our organizations from DER organizations, utilities, and regulators to help further these recommendations to unlock Nth party data access and promote innovation.

Some of those Nth parties are also known as “data aggregators,” software specialists that serve as intermediaries between utilities and a variety of energy services. For example, a rooftop solar installer will contract with a data aggregator to help gather their customers’ energy usage information from a variety of different utilities, each of whom manage data in different formats. The problem has been that state regulation and widely-used authorization software doesn’t account for data aggregators. The status quo assumes the solar installer builds its own software to receive customer data. In reality, however, solar installers and others who provide energy management services often outsource this function to an Nth party. The below figure from our paper illustrates a scenario involving a data aggregator. 

Fortunately, state regulators are increasingly recognizing the important role that Nth parties play in the energy ecosystem. Last week, the New York Public Service Commission issued an order titled “Establishing Minimum Cybersecurity and Privacy protections and Making other Findings” that addresses Nth parties and their data security obligations  (http://bit.ly/20191017dsaorder). The Commission eliminated onerous requirements for data aggregators that are simply delivering energy data to an energy services firm who has the customer relationship. The Commission ruled that:

“It is important to note that, in most instances, the utility may only share customer data with ESEs [energy services entities]  who have received the customer’s consent. ESEs who intend to, in turn, share that customer data with third party representatives [i.e., an Nth party] need to obtain the proper customer consent to do so.  Absent express consent from the customer to share their data with additional third parties, ESEs may only share customer data with a third party when it is necessary for the ESE to provide the service the customer signed up for.”  

 

New York’s ruling permits data aggregators for the first time — as long as data is handled in a manner consistent with the customer-authorized purpose. The ruling validates our white paper’s argument that  broad non-disclosure agreements previously used in New York were “unnecessary and cumbersome.” It also highlights the importance of implementing data access authorization technology that supports such “cascading” data access models (as illustrated in the figure below). Read the white paper for a review of some of the current policy and technology roadblocks hampering innovation and recommended solutions to these roadblocks.

Download the free, 20-page paper by clicking the “White Paper” button below. We look forward to hearing your thoughts and seeing discussion in the Energy Central community.

White Paper

Klaar De Schepper's picture

Thank Klaar for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 24, 2019 1:35 pm GMT

New York’s ruling permits data aggregators for the first time — as long as data is handled in a manner consistent with the customer-authorized purpose

Is this a first in just the U.S. or anywhere? Curious if there are any roadmaps for success already out there with regard to the tech and the solutions

Klaar De Schepper's picture
Klaar De Schepper on Oct 25, 2019 2:35 pm GMT

Great question Matt!

New York was not the first state to address "Nth Parties." There's language from California's privacy rule in the paper that also explicitly addresses them. As a roadmap to success, we can look at the concepts in the EU's GDPR (also referenced in the paper) describing the various Nth Parties involved in data sharing. State utility regulators, regulatory folks at utilities, consumer advocates, and DERs are frustrated with the lack of such federal level regulation, as creating new regulation takes time (years in this case) and inconsistencies between states hampers innovation. 

What would be a first is if New York's utilities would implement a technical mechanism to support centralized, cascading authorization to Nth parties of meter and bill data, including tracking by customers of all the Nth parties involved in the data sharing chain of command. We've developed the concept of such shared infrastructure to support data sharing as something named a "Trust Portal" — so this could be used as the start of a roadmap. It has also been worked out on a technical level in the UMA standard, and could be applied to standards like Green Button Connect (yep, also described in the paper).

The EPA's EnergyStar Portfolio Manager has a web interface and API that allows for cascading authorization for data exchange across utilities and Nth Parties(like data aggregators), and registers DERs in a central place. Most energy data aggregators and many energy management platforms have integrated with the API. The application is used for energy benchmarking across the country and could certainly be seen as a roadmap to success.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Oct 25, 2019 5:19 pm GMT

Thanks for the thorough and thoughtful response, Klaar.

 

What would be a first is if New York's utilities would implement a technical mechanism to support centralized, cascading authorization to Nth parties of meter and bill data, including tracking by customers of all the Nth parties involved in the data sharing chain of command.

This does sound exciting enough and the first mover always has that opportunity to set the roadmap for others to follow. Excited to see what comes of it. 

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