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Vermont Law School Releases Updated National Smart Grid Privacy Policy to Empower Electric Customers

December 10, 2012

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT—Putting electric customers first, Vermont Law School's Institute for Energy and the Environment today presented an updated smart grid privacy policy designed to serve as a model for utility companies nationwide.

 The policy is available at:

 Under the policy, intended to protect consumers while supporting a national rollout 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. 

 With increased focus on releasing data to third-party innovators through the Green Button Initiative and ongoing concerns about access to the data through the legal system, this updated version of the model privacy policy more specifically addresses these issues. 

 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, reduce costs and improve the environment. 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 input on how we can improve this model policy going forward."

 The privacy policy was developed to encompass nine key principles:

 Make privacy the default setting.

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

 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.

Carol Westberg, Director of Marketing and Communications
Vermont Law School

office: 802-831-1309
cell: 603-381-5444
home: 603-643-1261

Kevin Jones, Smart Grid Project Leader
office: 802-831-1054

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