I attended the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) Energy Data Access Workshop last week (1/15-16) in San Francisco. I have been following the CPUC's numerous proceedings on energy data privacy, including the Privacy Rule for SmartGrid Data and the discussion about implementing processes for users to authorize the utility to directly transfer their energy usage data to third party providers (e.g. for demand response purposes).
This particular meeting was focused on access to users' energy data for research purposes. A number of research institutes and city planners want access to both personalized and anon/aggregate energy consumption data for energy efficiency planning and research into alternative energy programs. This makes interesting politics because the Privacy Rule places the burden on utilities to protect their users' privacy.
Also interesting was how similar this debate is to other debates (i.e. cookie data or health data) where the question is how to create useful information from data, but to do so in a way that is reasonably aggregated and anonymous to protect user privacy. There were also interesting presentations, particularly by the census bureau, on secure means to provide access to the data when the research requires data in a form that could not be considered to meet this standard.
This Workshop was meant to give the CPUC enough information to start a proceeding that will likely determine whether a new data center with data from the three IOUs will be created or some other means to facilitate access to data will be pursued. Hopefully, it will spark some input from researchers and professionals other fields where these issues are being discussed.