Government promises 'tough' rules for smart meter data

Government promises 'tough' rules for smart meter data

Summary: UK citizens will have a choice about how their smart metering data is shared with third parties, the government has announced.Energy consumers will be able to choose the extent to which their data is shared with energy companies, apart from for billing and regulatory purposes, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said in a statement on Friday.

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TOPICS: Security
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UK citizens will have a choice about how their smart metering data is shared with third parties, the government has announced.

Energy consumers will be able to choose the extent to which their data is shared with energy companies, apart from for billing and regulatory purposes, the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said in a statement on Friday.

"In less than three years energy suppliers will begin the mass rollout of smart meters across the country and I am determined that consumers are at the heart of this ambitious programme," energy and climate change minister Charles Hendry said in the statement. "That is why today we are proposing tough guidelines on installation, which will minimise inconvenience and help people to make the most of their smart meters to save energy and save money.

"I want to be absolutely clear to consumers that they will be in control of their energy consumption data. So apart from where it is required for billing or other regulated purposes, it will be for consumers to decide who can access their data."

In addition, further sales during smart meter installation will be banned, said DECC.

The government has a target of energy companies providing 30 million homes and small businesses with smart meters by 2019, in an effort to end estimated billing, and provide consumers with accurate data about their energy consumption.

I want to be absolutely clear to consumers that they will be in control of their energy consumption data.

– Charles Hendry, climate change minister

Smart meter data and communications will be overseen by a separate company to be set up by DECC called the DCC (Data and Communications Company).

Cambridge University security expert professor Ross Anderson told ZDNet UK on Tuesday that the DCC would be running a centralised database which would be an attractive proposition to energy companies, marketers and other third parties.

"[DECC] is trying to say that [DCC] can build a massive centralised database, and won't give any data to retailers apart from billing," said Anderson. "This is a public sector IT disaster in the making."

Anderson said that the only way to guarantee that energy consumption data did not find its way to third parties was to not collect the data in the first place.

Topic: Security

Tom Espiner

About Tom Espiner

Tom is a technology reporter for ZDNet.com. He covers the security beat, writing about everything from hacking and cybercrime to threats and mitigation. He also focuses on open source and emerging technologies, all the while trying to cut through greenwash.

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  • The big scandal here is that the UK is still heading for a massively expensive roll-out of "Smart Grid 1.0." This meter-centric view of the world is the smartgrid equivalent of choosing Blackberry because iPhone and apps are just a fad.

    Smartgrid must put the consumer at the heart, not the energy company. And the consumer's key relationships over energy aren't with the power utilities, they're with the applicances. I don't plan to allow my electricity supplier to turn my lights on and off - my house, my rules thank you very much. And, when the day comes that I buy an electric car, it's between me and the car vendor to work out how best to keep it charged, and how to balance convenience and cost.

    Smartgrid 1.0 - what the UK will get unless we all intervene - imagines a world where the meter is the heart of intelligence. It will be future-proof, of course. And gradually, starting with heating, it will make the energy company responsible for all my electric appliances, and own all my data.

    This isn't necessary. It isn't realistic. It's Blackberry world. But consumers live in the age of iPhone. We don't believe in future-proofing. And we certainly don't think of our electricity supplier as our most trusted consumer relationship.

    Fortunately, there's a totally different model available, built on the internet of (plugged) things. Appliances, not meters, need to become smart - just smart enough so that the truly smart devices, the iPhones and PCs we trust because we control them, can be how we monitor and manage our devices.

    So which is it going to be, UK, yesterday's "Blackberry" vision of Smart Grids, or iPhone?

    Jeremy Parsons
    Cambridge Smart Grid
    www.cambridgesmartgrid.com
    @camsmartgrid
    CamSmartGrid