As utilities continue to leverage innovative Smart Grid technologies to transform operations and provide customers with new and improved services, they also collect an increasing amount of customer data. This data is useful for many operational purposes and the utilities are just discovering ways to leverage this information. In January 2015, the White House and the Department of Energy unveiled a new program aimed at protecting the privacy of customer energy usage and account data for utilities and third parties, branded ‘DataGuard Energy Data Privacy Program’. Over the last few months, our Energy & Utility clients have asked West Monroe to advise them on the various considerations associated with publically adopting the DataGuard program. This blog should provide a general overview of some of the aspects of the program.
Energy usage data commonly refers to the data energy providers collect via Smart Meters, which are typically implemented as part of the providers’ Smart Grid initiative. The collection of energy usage data allows the energy provider to bill the customer with greater accuracy and provide the customer with a more detailed usage profile. Customers that have access to their energy usage data can gain insights into exactly which appliance or usage habits use the most energy. For instance, customers can understand how much it costs to run their air conditioner or how much it costs to leave a utility closet light always on. It is possible that customers may not want others to know these specifics about their personal usage habits. Therefore, utilities have the new responsibility to protect this information. The principles of the DataGuard program attempts to ensure that entities with access to such data, including utilities, cooperatives, and other third parties, are taking the appropriate and necessary steps to protect customers’ energy usage information.
For organizations researching the DataGuard program, there are great benefits to adopting the DataGuard code of conduct, which provides a number of security and privacy best practices for organizations to institute. A short list of the benefits of committing to the program include:
- Recognition as an industry leader by stakeholders and customers for being proactive about protecting customer privacy
- Adopting a ‘customer privacy first’ set of practices to supplement existing technology frameworks
- Overall enhancement to your organization’s security posture
- Improved relationships with government & regulatory partners and 3rd party vendors who support or sponsor this program
There are a few things to consider if your organization is going to adopt the code of conduct including:
- How would adoption affect the organization’s communication strategies to their customers and partners?
- How would adoption affect both internal and external audits for the organization?
- How are the organization’s policies and procedures impacted?
- Does the amount of training to the organizations employees increase?
- What are the consequences to the organization and brand if you fail to meet all of the DataGuard guidelines?
DataGuard Program Website: https://www.smartgrid.gov/data_guard.html
Have you considered adopting the DataGuard Energy Data Privacy Program or other security or privacy frameworks? This post illustrates just some of the aspects of the program and how they could impact your organization. If you’d like to discuss these in more detail , feel free to reach out to us. Contact Michael Manske at firstname.lastname@example.org