The battle for customers’ access to energy data from California utilities has been long. The investor-owned utilities filed plans with the Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) back in March 2012 for a “Customer Data Access” investment in IT infrastructure, following a 2011 order from the CPUC that addressed data and privacy. The IOUs asked for over $28 million in rate increases, and the CPUC began a series of hearings and open comment periods. As I analyzed back in 2013, disagreements among the IOUs and data-access advocates were numerous, including eligibility criteria for third parties, the termination process following a suspected or actual breach of CPUC’s privacy rules, and what policies should apply to third parties.

But those disagreements were resolved, and Green Button Connect implementation in California official began, when the CPUC issued its decision (D13-09-025) in September 2013. This is a major win for energy efficiency in California. Here are the decision’s highlights:

  • Implementation: Orders the IOUs to begin implementing Green Button Connect (also known as the Energy Services Provider Interface, or ESPI). The IOUs must report in 180 days on their implementation timeframe.

  • Consistency: The IOUs’ implementations must be technologically consistent across the state.

  • Utility liability for third party breach resolved: Before this decision, the IOUs perceived that they were liable for a third party’s breach of privacy rules. This was problematic, because it meant that if the utilities had a whiff of suspicion about a “bad actor,” they could pre-emptively shut off access. Instead of giving this power to the utilities, the CPUC agreed with us that the CPUC should investigate accusations of breaches by third parties, and the utilities do NOT have the ability to unilaterally terminate a third party’s access.

Overall, this decision is a tremendous success because it demonstrates that data access can coexist with one of the nation’s most protective privacy policies, developed specifically for energy data. With many other states taking California’s lead, it is important that we demonstrate technologically-consistent implementation across the state. We can also give legislators and regulators elsewhere confidence that similar policies will not undermine strong consumer protections as it relates to data privacy.

Stay tuned as we track the IOUs’ implementation of Green Button Connect.