Who Controls Access to Consumer Power Consumption Data?

Michael Giberson

In Pennsylvania, a debate over how non-utility electricity retailers get access to a customer’s power use data.  The new rule allows an energy retailer to gain consumer data based only on oral assurance to the PUC that the customer wants their utility to release it, even if the customer had previously requested that the information not be released.

Access to the data helps a non-utility supplier to better price an offer to a potential customer, so it should tend to promote competition.  But consumer privacy issues are raised by the change, and some businesses may see their energy consumptions patterns as commercially-sensitive information they would not want disclosed.

Concerns about access to data and consumer privacy arise each time former-monopoly retail markets move toward more competitive conditions.  Ten years ago, these issues popped up all of the time.  But surely, by now, there has been enough experience across the states that have restructured.  What rules have worked well in other markets?