Illinois Regulators Establish Pathway for Utility to Share Anonymous Energy Use Data to Advance New Energy Technologies

Earlier this month, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved a proposal from Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) that will allow the utility to share anonymous customer energy usage data it collects through its installed smart meters. ComEd will be one of the first utilities in the country given the authority to make its usage data available to researchers, energy management specialists, and other companies in the energy space to enable them to develop new products and services to benefit ComEd customers. According to Val Jensen, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations at ComEd, “One of the great benefits of smart meter technology is the availability of data that will enable a growing sector of energy tech companies to design new products and pricing programs that will help customers save money and meet the growing interest for more choice and personalized services.”

Key Details

  • To ensure the anonymity of customer-specific use, the ICC has only approved ComEd to share aggregate energy usage for each zip code in which it has smart meters installed
  • ComEd currently has approximately three million smart meters installed across northern Illinois and plans on deploying another one million smart meters by 2018
  • While the primary purpose of this program is to benefit ComEd customers, it is only a matter of time before the insights gathered through the sharing of this usage data spread to other parts of the country

 Implications

One of the primary barriers to the advancement of new energy technologies is the lack of data available on end-use customers. Though advancements in smart meter technology and its rapid deployment in many parts of the country have addressed many of the issues surrounding the collection of distribution-level data, regulators are struggling with how, or even if, this data should be shared with third parties. By approving this program, Illinois regulators appear to have struck a balance between protecting a customer’s right to privacy relating to their individual energy usage and providing valuable data that assists energy technology companies and researchers in their efforts. Regulators in New York are also looking at ways to make customer energy usage data public. Recent comments from former FERC Chair John Wellinghoff (now at SolarCity) ring true for this decision by the ICC, “(t)he sharing of distribution-level data by New York utilities can fundamentally change the way utilities and third parties operate not just in New York, but throughout the whole country.” Time will tell if this decision in Illinois will be a model for other state commissions that are grappling with similar issues.

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This report is part of ScottMadden’s Regulatory Minute series. To view all featured Regulatory Minutes, please click here.

Additional Contributing Author: Eric Hanson

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