The Electricity Smart Grid. It sounds so techie. So scientific. So complicated. It’s REALLY not. If you’re reading this on your smartphone or connected tablet, you have pretty much the same technology in your hand that the Smart Grid uses to deliver and monitor electricity.
Pretty much everyone has a smartphone or tablet these days. And most of those have apps to control various aspects of our lives. They track our exercise routines, control our televisions and radios, open and close our garage doors, and control the heating and air conditioning in our homes.
Companies use these apps to collect and distribute information for a variety of reasons:
Online retailers like Amazon want to make sure you get a special deal from one of their partner-retailers.
Your security system company needs your personal data so that they can monitor your home and suggest additions to your system.
Your YMCA wants your data so that they know what classes you like and can suggest new ones.
And your electric company, using the Smart Grid, wants your information so that it can help you be more energy efficient. With this data in hand, your electric utility can provide cost saving procedures to deliver more electricity to you during off hours, saving you time and money on the monthly bill.
All of these companies have rules and procedures they live by to make sure your personal information is secure from cyber-breaches. All of them allow you to ‘opt-in’ or ‘opt-out’ of information sharing, and let you choose what personal details are shared and how. However, there is no one law that lays out all the requirements for these privacy safeguards.
Your electricity provider, though, has an extra level of security in its industry. Unlike online retailers, the utility industry is highly regulated, with multiple levels of government overseeing how it works. This is why the Smart Grid is safer to use than buying a new microwave from Amazon Prime.
Last year, the Department of Energy and the Federal Smart Grid Task Force, after 12 months of research, issued voluntary rules for everyone involved in the delivery of electricity through the Smart Grid. The rules cover all aspects of the Smart Grid system – from the electricity producers, to the local electric companies, to the digital thermostat manufacturers, to the electricity-monitoring software companies, to the ultimate consumer.
These rules place all of the control over information sharing squarely in the hands of the consumer. It is your choice whether you opt-in or opt-out of the data collection system, and choose where your information can be shared if you choose to opt-in. The rules are much stricter than most you would find on the Amazon website or the form you fill out to get a grocery store discount card.
The bottom line is that there hasn't been one instance reported of private data being breached through any Smart Grid technology, and the rules outlined by the Department of Energy are stricter than most data-sharing agreements the majority of us have agreed to through other vendors.
Much like receiving that email for a discount on eggs at Harris Teeter, or the deal at Best Buy for a new television to watch the big game, sharing your data and participating in the Smart Grid reduces your energy consumption without having to think about it. Think of it as a programmable thermostat - taken to the next level.
All of this saves you money, with no extra steps, and all the security you could want. It’s a win-win-win for all.