Utilities Oppose CPUC Jurisdiction Over 3rd Party Data Collectors

San Diego Gas and Electric Company and other California investor owned utilities have come down against California's Public Utilities Commission having any say over third party users of private consumer information gathered from smart meters.

Currently, several non-utility firms are expected to offer advanced consumer services, including cheaper access to power. Some of these lower-cost options may come from consumer choice aggregation as an alternative to service by an investor owned utility such as SDG&E. These non-IOU companies will have access to consumers' smart meter information as part of offering price comparisons to those consumers. Unfortunately, if these legitimate users of otherwise private consumer information can get it, so can others, prompting several moves before CPUC to extend regulatory jurisdiction over all who might gain access to that privileged information.

In one recently closed proceeding, SDG&E has already successfully opposed a move to have CPUC to adopt standards for human-readable reporting from smart meters. Such information could be valuable to consumers challenging excessive power billings or in other utility disputes. In human-readable form, it could even be submitted as evidence in state or federal court, but with CPUC ruling in favor of SDG&E, only SDG&E and other industry insiders will be able to say just what our smart meters are saying about our power usage, and when we were using it.

Smart meters are fundamental to SDG&E's stated smart grid goal of controlling our appliances whenever large commercial account demand leaves little or none for small business and residential customers to use. SDG&E's PeakShift A1007009 dynamic rate hike application will raise daytime business hour rates for small business and residential power consumers, sending us a high price signal to use power in evening and weekend off-peak hours. Incorrect time-of-usage smart meter readings could unfairly charge consumers who were actually saving money from off-peak cost-conscious usage.

SDG&E's initial A1007009 application contains a demand for consumers to pay $118 million for, among other things, a five-year advertising campaign to inform us of the wonderful consumer benefits of paying more under SDG&E's proposed peak rate hikes.

CPUC DRA, TURN And UCAN In Favor Of Consumer Privacy Protections

CPUC's Division of Ratepayer Advocates, The Utility Reform Network, and the Utilities Consumers' Action Network have filed a joint reply brief in the R0812009 proceeding, supporting the need for CPUC jurisdiction to protect consumer privacy after smart meter installation. UCAN has already been recognized by CPUC for significant contributions to the R0812009 proceeding on cyber-security issues.

According to the DRA/TURN/UCAN reply brief, "The state’s electric customers were not given options as to whether smart meters with HAN [Home Area Network] devices were to be installed upon their houses and businesses. They were not given an option to decline these intrusive instruments if they were concerned about their privacy being preserved. Unlike phones, railroads, moving trucks or other necessary services overseen by this Commission, the smart meters that currently pose threats to customer privacy were mandated for every customer. There was no choice involved. Further, it was the Commission's desire to further energy goals that caused it to extend smart meter installation universally. Thus, at every step of the way, the Commission is involved in regulation. It simply cannot abdicate the final step in this process by leaving consumers alone to suffer the vicissitudes of the third party’s customer service policies and practices."

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