Green Button Connect comes to California in 2013

July 26, 2012

On July 30th, the California investor-owned utilities (IOUs) filed an informative joint report that described implementation timeframes and identified outstanding issues in the road leading up to Green Button Connect. Following up on the IOUs’ March filings, in which the IOUs outlined their plans to provide customer electricity and gas usage data electronically to third parties with the customer’s consent, the joint report demonstrates significant momentum behind Green Button Connect with access beginning as early as December, 2012 for some California consumers and businesses.

Here is a brief summary of the joint filings:

Price: All parties recommended to the Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that no per-use fees should be applied. This is a big win for energy efficiency in California. Just imagine how charging customers to access their data – it’s their data, after all! – would set a terrible precedent for other utilities and states. Furthermore, the CPUC’s Department of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), an independent division of the CPUC that advocates for consumers’ interests, dropped their objections to the IOUs’ requested budgets for implementing Green Button Connect, removing a key objection in the proceeding.

Timeline: San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) will lead the way, since its Green Button Connect rate case was already approved as part of its smart meter deployment. Pending CPUC approval (discussed below), SDG&E customers could have access to Green Button Connect as early as December of this year.

While this is great news for Green Button advocates, there remains one thorny issue: What liability does the utility have, if any, for a third party’s abuse of customer privacy? Per the CPUC’s rules, utilities do not have liability for a third party’s breach of customer data, except in cases where the utility acted “recklessly.” The question is, what does “reckless” mean? The CPUC did not specify. The IOUs, understandably, want to be able to cut off a third party if they suspect wrongdoing in order to avoid CPUC penalties. Third parties, however, do not want the IOUs to have the right to cut off access because of unsubstantiated suspicions of wrongdoing, because it would unfairly harm their businesses. Third parties want the CPUC, as an enforcement body, and not the IOUs, to have the sole power to terminate access. The joint report asked the CPUC to clarify its position on “recklessness” as soon as possible so that the Green Button Connect implementation can proceed.

Lucid looks forward to advocate for and create innovative tools based on Green Button both in California and nationally. As one of the first companies to successfully implement Green Button integration, we believe increased data access and transparency has incredible potential to transform the building world and drive all kinds of new innovation in energy efficiency.