Skip Navigation

Website Sections


News Releases

Empowering Electric Customers: VT Law School Unveils Innovative National Smart Grid Privacy Policy

November 8, 2011

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT -- Putting power customers first, Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the Environment today presented a draft smart grid privacy policy designed to serve as a model for utility companies nationwide.Image of electric tower

The policy, which was presented at the American Public Power Association's Legal Seminar in Memphis, Tenn., is available at: www.VermontLaw.edu/smartgrid

Under the policy, which is intended to protect consumers while supporting a national roll out of a smart electric grid, utility companies would ensure customer information is not disclosed to third parties except when the customer consents, disclosure is required to provide reliable electric service, or disclosure is required by law, such as warrants or "sunshine" laws.

The policy is intended to regulate the information practices of electric utilities that are implementing new wireless technology in an effort to improve energy reliability, increase efficiency and reduce costs. But the technology also raises privacy concerns because smart meters provide real-time data on electricity use that may indicate how many people are in the house, what they are doing, what appliances are being used and other data that is valuable to advertisers and other companies.

Kevin Jones, VLS's smart grid project leader, said the privacy policy provides clarity on data privacy concerns and protects customer information from unauthorized disclosure, while granting customers access to their own information.

"This policy can be used in the existing form or can be altered to fit each utility's needs and local, state, and federal laws," he said. "Our goal is to help develop a national model for consumer protection, while enabling broad adoption of smart grid technology. We welcome broad input on how we can improve this model policy going forward."

The privacy policy was developed to encompass nine key principles:Image of solar panels

1. Make privacy the default setting.
2. Provide complete privacy protection.
3. Know the law regarding public disclosure in your state.
4. Only store/provide access to necessary information.
5. Obtain written consent before disclosing to most third parties.
6. Educate customers about the implications of sharing data with third parties.
7. Notify customers when data is disclosed.
8. Develop a plan for contingencies.
9. Make your privacy policy accessible to customers.

Jones is available to comment at 802.831.1054 or kbjones@vermontlaw.edu

VLS's smart grid research project utilizes case study research to examine legal, regulatory and other policy changes that can best ensure smart grid implementation in the United States improves reliability, enhances consumer value and meets clean energy goals.

CONTACT: John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations
Office: 802.831.1106, cell: 540.798.7099, home: 802.649.2235, jcramer@vermontlaw.edu

Bookmark and Share