Power sector ‘concerned’ about new EU data privacy rules

New business models in the clean energy sector, which include the use of smart meters, could be hurt by the new rules. [Shutterstock]

A proposed ePrivacy regulation currently under discussion at EU level would hurt new business models in the clean energy sector, which are “almost all” based on the collection and treatment of data by home equipment and smart meters, warns an industry coalition.

Under the proposed rules, consumers would need to give their prior consent to companies processing energy data from equipment installed in people’s homes and revoke it at any moment, without advance notice.

“This makes data processing for innovative energy services practically impossible,” even where only business data is involved, the industry coalition warned in a letter submitted to EU authorities on Wednesday (24 October).

“Almost all innovative business models in the energy sector are based on the processing of consumption, condition, and measurement of data,” the coalition says in the letter, expressing their concern over the proposed ePrivacy Regulation.

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The letter was signed by leading industry associations Eurelectric, smartEn, metering industry group ESMIG, the European Heat Pump Association (EHPA), SolarPower Europe, and the European Energy Retailers association.

The coalition’s warning illustrates a shift in the public debate about data privacy in the digital age. Concerns over data protection have until now been centred largely around people’s internet browsing behaviour, advertising, social media, and platforms such as Uber or AirBnb.

With the digitalisation of electricity, the debate now firmly enters the energy realm.

“The ePrivacy Regulation is not just about cookies and online advertising, but it could also have far-reaching consequences for new business models in the energy sector,” said Frauke Thies, executive director of smartEn, the European business association for digital and decentralised energy solutions.

“Innovative energy services rely on specific data, for example for energy management systems, e-mobility services and smart home applications which help consumers save money and support the clean energy transition,” she told EURACTIV.

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A former clean energy campaigner at Greenpeace, Thies is aware of public concerns over privacy in the digital age. But she says the draft regulation goes too far and would make it harder to deliver even on services that consumers have signed up to.

“While Europeans must be protected from unwanted use of their data, the current draft Regulation overshoots the mark by even compromising services that the consumer is asking for,” she said.

Consumer groups, for their part, say they were shocked by the coalition’s demands.

“Giving the consumer the right to choose whether an energy company can use their data is not excessive, it should be the norm,” said Monika De Volder, team leader for energy at the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).

“Businesses, however smart and innovative they are, should respect people’s privacy and there can be no compromise on this. To argue that protecting a business model is more important than a person’s privacy is quite shocking,” she told EURACTIV.

> Click here for the full letter or read it below:


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