i4Energy Seminar: Legal issues in Energy Policies and Climate Change

Deirdre Mulligan [UC Berkeley]

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Although the Smart Grid promises to help meet goals of energy efficiency and renewability, incorporating IT into the electric grid poses new and substantial risks to individual privacy.  At the same time, Smart Grid deployment is proceeding along a path that could make it difficult for individuals to control the flow of information about their energy use while also raising barriers in the market for in-home smart devices.

The crux of these issues—and the focus of this talk—is the smart meter, which is a linchpin in the Smart Grid strategy in California and nationally.  Data from smart meters can reveal intimate details about individual behavior, such as when members of a household are awake, asleep, at home, or away.  As the Smart Grid is built out, home energy consumption data will become increasingly attractive to a number of players in the energy market, criminals, and law enforcement officials.  Yet there is no comprehensive, consistent legal framework to protect energy consumption data, and California and other states are adopting smart meters have the potential to reveal more and more information over time.  Furthermore, these smart meters have embedded gateways for home area networks, a feature that could exacerbate privacy issues while potentially turning the meter into a “gatekeeper” for smart devices.  This talk will explore regulatory and technological alternatives to these trends, and in particular will suggest that the goals of protecting privacy and promoting innovation are well aligned in the Smart Grid.