GRID — Tech companies to utilities: Give us your data

E&E NEWS
By David Ferris and Saqib Rahim
December 22, 2016

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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