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The Push to Make Illinois Smart Meter Data Available to Consumers

A move to allow downstate Illinois energy customers access to their usage data on smartphones and tablets via Smart Meters is being debated this month before the state's Commerce Commission. (iStockphoto)
A move to allow downstate Illinois energy customers access to their usage data on smartphones and tablets via Smart Meters is being debated this month before the state's Commerce Commission. (iStockphoto)
July 18, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- An Illinois environmental protection group is continuing a push to get one of the state's largest energy providers to adopt new ways for customers to get real-time data on their electricity use.

The idea has already been adopted by ComEd, which serves millions of customers in northern Illinois. Now the push is on to get downstate energy provider Ameren on board with what has been called the "Open Data Access Framework.”

The new standards would allow people to monitor their electricity use, which could lead to lower utility bills, according to Andrew Barbeau, president of the Chicago-based clean technology consulting firm, Accelerate Group. The technology is becoming possible as the utility switches over to so-called Smart Meters. But, said Barbeau, Ameren has so far resisted the idea.

"Ameren has taken the role of an old-fashioned, traditional utility so far, saying 'Well, this is our data,' and trying to make it a little more difficult for customer access it,” Barbeau said. "We hope that will change. We're pushing hard. We want all customers in Illinois to be able to get easy access to their Smart Meter data. It's not just for the utility. It's for the customers primarily."

The technology is becoming possible as the utility switches over to so-called Smart Meters. Barbeau says his group is pursuing legal action to force the issue. An Ameren spokeswoman recently told Midwest Energy News that the company is moving slowly on the idea because of customer privacy concerns. And local groups, including Naperville Smart Meter Awareness, have complained that the meters' radio-frequency transmissions can cause health problems.

The Government Accountability Office has raised concerns about the wrong people getting access to smart meter data. Barbeau, however, argues that Illinois' power utilities should make energy consumption data available for customers, and he's urging Ameren to follow ComEd's lead.

"[ComEd] agreed to open up access and really explore cutting-edge ways to get data out to customers as quickly and easily as possible,” Barbeau said. "Ameren has decided not to agree to anything in that case, and so now it's becoming contested."

Meanwhile, the Illinois Citizens Utility Board and the Environmental Defense Fund say the new data standards will protect customer privacy, and if Ameren does adopt them, energy prices for homeowners could go down thanks to off-peak billing rates.

For more information, visit edf.org.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL