Data avalanche

As states continue to adopt and pursue decarbonization goals, access to and analysis of energy data will be critical to help chart our path towards a decarbonized grid. Detailed energy data can provide a better understanding of the value of energy efficiency, demand response, and other distributed resources, and it can help with demand side resource program planning, grid planning, and energy forecasting efforts. Some important building energy policies, such benchmarking and building performance standards, are only possible with secure, aggregated, whole building data. It also provides a valuable feedback loop to determine the actual impact of policies, leading to better policy decisions going forward. 

While there is general agreement about the benefits of data sharing and public access to energy data, putting data sharing into practice can be difficult. Energy data is typically tied to sensitive information, leading to data access limitations. Energy consumers have a legitimate privacy interest in the disclosure and use of their energy consumption data. Releasing data to third parties raises security and privacy concerns regarding potential breach of confidentiality, unauthorized disclosure, and use beyond the intended purpose of data sharing. NEEP’s May 2020 report, Sharing Load Profile Data: Best Practices and Examples, provides an in-depth analysis of data sharing barriers and best practice guidelines to help overcome those barriers.

Despite the challenges associated with data sharing, recent developments at the state level are sending the message that data sharing is growing in importance, enough to warrant the effort and innovation required to make it happen. The following state level data sharing efforts are illustrative of an overall recognition of the value of energy data and the push toward greater data access, leading to an avalanche of new data sharing initiatives.

California has been a national leader in developing energy data sharing and access policies. In 2011, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) adopted rules protecting the privacy and security of customers’ electric usage data generated by smart meters and transmitted by the smart grid. One of California’s largest utilities, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), which provides electricity and natural gas to over five million customers, has developed an Energy Data Hub that is easily accessible on its website and allows customers to access their energy usage data and/or share it with a third party.

The PG&E Energy Data Hub includes a user-friendly Summary of Data Access Programs document that outlines 10 PG&E data access tools. This summary provides information about each tool including eligible requestors, relevant customer segments, type of available data (i.e. meter, billing, and/or real-time usage) and latency, number of years, and number of service agreements required. It also provides information about the tool’s intended audience. For example, a customer who wants to monitor the energy of each load in their home and start conserving could use the Stream My Data tool, while a large C&I customer enrolled in a demand response program who wants to download its interval data and graphs could use the InterAct tool. This clear and transparent view of PG&E data sharing programs translates the complex data sharing environment into easily understandable and accessible tools. PG&E’s approach to data sharing follows the best practice guidelines outlined in the Sharing Load Profile Data report.

States in the NEEP region are also engaging in new or expanded data sharing efforts. For example, New York is also providing for greater access to energy data. In 2020, the New York Public Service Commission (NY PSC) initiated a proceeding to address the strategic use of energy-related data. Last month, the NY PSC issued an order as an outcome of this proceeding: Adopting a Data Access Framework and Establishing Further Process. New York’s new energy data framework is intended to provide for safe and fair access to and appropriate use of energy related data that will help New York achieve its aggressive energy goals, including economy-wide carbon neutrality. It will be the sole source for statewide data access requirements and will collect, integrate, analyze, and manage energy-related information from New York’s electric and gas utilities and other sources. Under the new framework, energy data users, including energy companies and consumers, will be able to use queries to filter, aggregate, and analyze data of interest. New York’s new centralized data structure will also benefit ratepayers and streamline the New York utilities’ data reporting practices.

Massachusetts also has a variety of energy data resources coming online, including a new Residential Customer Profile online dashboard, city/town information on MassSave data, and a Municipal Partnership mapping tool that is under development. The Massachusetts program administrators recently held a public webinar to provide information about these data resources.

The Customer Profile Dashboard uses the Veracity by DNV data platform to provide information about customer energy usage, program participation, savings and incentives. It also allows for targeted geographical analysis by providing data at the census block level. The dashboard provides data visualizations that uphold customer confidentiality rules. The Municipal Partnership mapping tool will overlay demographics with a geographic display of program participation. This data can be used to help target programs to previously underserved communities or demographic groups. The MassSave city/town information can be used to help towns track their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions and progress toward Climate Action Plan goals.

Maine is another state that is focusing on increasing access to customer energy data. This month, a bill (H.P. 1237) was introduced to the Maine legislature to require the Maine Public Utilities Commission to establish a statewide online energy data platform to provide electric and natural gas customers with access to their energy usage information, while still protecting customer privacy. NEEP will be tracking this bill’s progress through our Legislative Tracker.

NEEP has long supported greater data sharing, as well as transparency and consistency in energy reporting practices, through projects such as the Regional Energy Efficiency Database, which NEEP has maintained since 2011. NEEP will continue to track developments in data sharing policies and practices across the region. We anticipate that the energy data avalanche will continue as data is used more widely to help states achieve their decarbonization goals.

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