The Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative (SGCC) recently published a fact sheet and released a web video to refute privacy and data security critiques of smart meter technology. SGCC is a non-profit that seeks “to advance the adoption of a reliable, efficient, and secure smart grid.” Its membership includes electric utility and technology companies, universities, government agencies, and environmental advocacy groups. Privacy and data security concerns have led some consumers to oppose the installation of smart meters, and even inspired lawsuits in states such as Maine and Illinois. SGCC’s recently published materials suggest that many of these concerns are based on “myths” and “urban legend.”
Smart meter privacy concerns generally focus on the amount and type of data that smart meters collect from the homes or businesses where they are installed. Some consumers are concerned that, by recording detailed information about electricity consumption, smart meters will provide electric utility companies with substantial information about their private activities. The SGCC fact sheet seeks to address these concerns, asserting that “[s]mart meters measure how much energy you use, based on time of day, not how you use that energy.” A consumer would need to have a home energy management system installed to enable more detailed data collection about whether a specific appliance is being used. Other consumer groups have expressed concern that utility companies will sell the personal information that they collect from consumers. SGCC refutes this concern by arguing that “[u]tilities adhere to strict policies, following state laws that regulate the use of personal information for business functions like billing and customer service.” Utilities already have considerable information on electricity consumption which they do not sell, and the introduction of smart meters will not change this.