The Day the Data Died – repost


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This post went out in the form of a newsletter last week and got some good dialogue going.  Turns out nobody has ever heard of HB1896 before! There has been so little chatter about it that google results return a post to my own blog from the “no you cannot sell my data” post. So, in the interest of sharing, here’s my story:

The Day the Data Died

On a Tuesday like any other, my largest client called to inform me that the service I’ve been providing them for two years was now illegal. A group of well-intended WA legislators killed my small business.

 A Surprise (to us) Bill

I always knew Seinergy could be affected by legislation. However, I never saw this one coming. In fact, I never even knew HB1896 existed until I received that call.  Everyone I spoke with thereafter, including the sponsoring legislator Norma Smith (R-Clinton), was surprised the Bill would affect my business. The Bill seemed so innocent on the surface.

 Customer Privacy

The intent of HB1896 was to protect consumer energy use data from getting in the wrong hands. For example, data might indicate when a customer is away, thus leaving a home vulnerable. Originally, HB1896 sought to mirror regulations for privately owned utilities with publicly owned utilities. I support this effort. However, language was added to take it a step further, putting restrictions on all customer data. From our perspective, what the Bill failed to do was specify “energy use” when they defined “customer data.”

What else might this affect?

I am not yet sure what other changes this Bill will create. I was surprised that, according to utility lawyer interpretation, publicly available information such as an address from the  assessor’s database is now illegal to share with utilities. 

If any information about a customer is taboo, how can insights about energy efficiency and program effects be analyzed? How do utilities hire outside organizations or experts to assist them without onerous customer disclosure requirements? What about collaborating between utilities for state or region-wide understanding? What other innovations will be stalled if new ideas aren’t ever explored due to fears about non-compliance?

Where to now?

Seinergy will continue to explore methods to clarify or provide service in accordance with HB 1896.  In the meantime, I remain committed to pursuing creative and cost effective solutions within the energy efficiency industry.  Stay tuned.

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