The traditional power company is a monopoly that tightly controls the data it uses to make decisions on what to build and how much it costs. Now a coalition of high-tech energy companies are saying they want the data — and with it, a say in the planning.
A trio of technology groups issued a white paper Tuesday declaring that the utilities’ data is a “public good” that would make electric service cheaper and more reliable and lower carbon if it only were shared.
“This issue for us is critical,” said Andrea Deveau, whose group, TechNet, is a white paper author and will be waging a campaign starting next month to persuade state lawmakers and regulators to make utilities open up. “We’re sort of at this tipping point of needing access to this data to move to the next phase.”
The white paper points to a growing area of contention between traditional power companies — cautious actors whose century-old business model is under threat — and an array of high-tech companies who have new approaches to providing energy and are stymied by a shortage of information.
“How do you achieve a balance? How do you make sure you can provide the information but at the same time not compromise privacy, security and confidentiality?” said David Owens, an executive vice president at the Edison Electric Institute, which represents investor-owned utilities. “It’s kind of a new world that we’re living in now.”
The white paper was a joint project of several technology groups associated with clean energy. They include the SunSpec Alliance, a trade group trying to align standards among solar and energy storage companies; TechNet, a policy group for technology companies large and small; and DBL Investors, a Silicon Valley venture-capital fund that was an early investor in both Tesla Motors and SolarCity, which merged last month to become one of the country’s largest energy storage and solar companies.
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