As customers continue to raise smart grid concerns about privacy and technology, utilities and towns are hammering out principles to determine what needs to be done.
Across the U.S., legislation and written agreements guaranteeing consumer privacy have been adopted by towns and utilities. The written agreements, prominent at the local level, often come in the form of a "consumer bills of rights," outlining the options, information, privacy and security that utility customers are entitled to. The city of Naperville, Ill., for example, has received nationwide attention for its bill of rights and has been hailed as an example for other utilities hoping to reconcile their practices with customers' privacy concerns.
For today's feature, Utility Dive looked at cities with existing utility customer bills of rights as well as the White House's more general approach to protecting consumer privacy. Here is what we found:
To address concerns about the risks involved with deploying smart meters, the Opelika City Council drafted a bill of rights for utility customers. While this bill outlines the legal limits of smart meter data collection by utility companies, it notes that under the Alabama Public Records Act, certain customer information is allowed for inspection.
For the last few months, Naperville has been undergoing a large scale smart meter installation project. After receiving feedback from customers, the city council created a bill of rights to inform consumers of their available options and privacy.
In response to customer fears of losing privacy, Fountain Utilities developed a bill of rights ensuring full transparency of company data collection. Unlike other cities, Fountain has entitled utility customers the right to file complaints on its bill.
Resistance to smart meters in Vermont has been fully acknowledged by the state government. Legislation passed earlier this year allows a free opt-out option for people who want to keep their old meters and specifies consumer rights. Most states that allow customers to opt-out require a fee to do so.
Earlier this year, the White House released the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights as a "blueprint for the information age". As smart meters continue to be rolled out, this bill's stipulations are becoming increasingly relevant to the utility sector.
6. FULTON, MO.
The city utility of Fulton has adopted a customer bill of rights similar to that of Naperville for its fully installed smart grid, consisting of 5,500 working smart meters. The new bill is part of a larger effort by the utility to maintain security over its digital meter network.
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