Reuters reports on privacy questions about the “smart grid” rollout in the United Kingdom. “Smart grids” are the case where utilities would be able to collect granular data about consumers’ energy consumption — down to the daily electricity use by the fridge in your kitchen or the TV in your bedroom. I’ve spoken about the privacy issues connected with smart grids and smart meters before. And the Ontario Privacy Commissioner has published a report (pdf) that outlines best practices for embedding privacy in smart grid systems.
Smart grid” technologies potentially allow utilities greater control over household energy use, helping smooth demand surges and curbing overall use.
Technologies center around home meters which display live energy use to consumers and allow two-way wireless communication with utilities, so these can forecast demand, charge more at peak times and even switch off individual appliances remotely. […]
Britain, for example, plans a nationwide deployment, seeing energy security and carbon emissions benefits.
But the data-gathering power of meters has prompted comparisons with “spies” in people’s homes. […]
“An ugly grey box which spies on you and makes bills bigger won’t go down well but smart meters don’t need to be seen in that light,” said Pilgrim Beart, founder of AlertMe, which specializes in online displays.
Beart pointed to concerns in the Netherlands over data ownership and complaints in California following hiked bills. […]
Another concern, however, is about potential mis-use of energy companies’ new ability to switch off appliances remotely.
“There’ll be a lot of resistance to being told by your utility when you can do your washing,” said Chris Wright, chief technology officer at Moixa Technology.