Smart metering offers big savings but customer data must be secured
05 July 2012
Posted by Samuel Couratin
Rolling out smart meters to homes and businesses can offer substantial savings to energy consumers, a report concludes.
Carried out by the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) in Ireland, the study reveals research has indicated there could be a net benefit of 220 million (£175 million) to customers and the country during a 20-year period.
The CER has announced it plans to proceed to the next stage of the national rollout of gas and electricity smart meters in the country following a successful first phase of trials, with a view to having them in all homes and businesses in the future.
It stated: "These Smart Meters will provide significant benefits to energy customers and to the country generally."
In addition to benefits for customers in the form of lower bills and greater control over their power usage, smart metering nationwide could reduce overall gas consumption by 2.9 per cent and electricity by 2.5 per cent, lowering carbon emissions and providing environmental benefits.
However, the risk to consumer data posed by smart metering needs to be properly assessed and safeguards put in place to ensure sensitive information does not fall into the wrong hands, a watchdog has insisted.
This is the claim made by the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS), who has declared it is important for consumer profiling using the devices to be done carefully.
Speaking in Brussels, Giovanni Buttarelli, the Assistant EDPS, explained that as smart meters record customer energy usage, firms in the industry will have detailed data about them and there should be a ;mandatory requirement for controllers to conduct a data protection impact assessment and an obligation to notify personal data breaches” in legislation relating to their rollout in member states.
In a response to the European Commission recommendation on preparations for the widespread installation of meters, the EDPS advised data collected will include whether households use baby monitors or medical devices, when homes tend to be vacant and how free time is spent.
The regulator also called for greater guidance on processing information gathered and retention periods, as well as direct access for consumers to details relating to them.