Austin, Texas, October 12 – Texas consumers are not receiving the full value of their investment in smart meters according to a new report, “Improving Access to Smart Meter Data in Texas,” from the South-central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER). However, the non-profit regional energy efficiency organization working to accelerate adoption of advanced building systems and energy efficient products, services, and technologies in Texas and Oklahoma believes that relatively simple steps can now be taken to help unleash the innovation that was the promise of the smart grid.
Since 2005, Texas residential customers as well as small and medium sized commercial users in competitive retail electricity areas of the state have paid roughly $2.5 Billion for the deployment of advanced meters and related infrastructure. These investments are intended to allow users to access the 15-minute interval data automatically captured and transmitted every day by smart meters, which can enable benefits such as same-day service when moving or same-day switching of retail electric providers. In addition, they allow utilities to offer creative products like ‘free nights or weekends’ rates, or peak-time rebates.
Yet despite this investment, the report found that the utilities, not customers have been the primary beneficiary so far due to an overly complicated process.
“Smart meter data can allow users to understand and control their energy use, respond to prices, optimize comfort and cost and even contribute to reliable operation of the grid,” said Rob Bevill, SPEER’s policy manager and a former operations manager for Green Mountain Energy. “However, the expansion of energy-related home and business services has been frustrated because access to the smart meter data by anyone but the utilities and retail electric companies is overly complicated.”
The report goes on to reveal how the process for consumers to release their own information to service providers became complex as a result of the state’s effort to protect consumers’ privacy. State regulations call for access to the data to be “secure and convenient,” and SPEER points out that other critical personal data is shared to complete transactions in sectors like banking and retail.
“Improving Access to Smart Meter Data in Texas” calls for the state to make it easier for a consumer to grant access to the meter readings for the customer’s designated service provider, and provides step by step recommendations on how to do so.
“Nearly 100 companies have expressed interest in offering information-related services or online apps in Texas, but only 1,735 active data-sharing agreements had been completed by August, in a universe of over 7 million Texas meters,” added Bevill. “This is the last mile of the smart meter journey. Today a customer that finds an app they like must go to a clumsy and outdated utility-owned portal; create a new account through a process that includes up to 10 distinct steps. With modern online standards, customers should be able to safely share their data for home energy management, with a single click, and a confirmation email.”