Because you care about fighting climate change [💚!] then data sharing is a topic you also need to care about. Here’s why.
The data itself isn’t the goal. It’s only the first step of the process that ends in stopping climate change. Every innovative clean energy company needs data in order to make their climate-saving improvements. Solar and EV charger installers need consumer data in order to propose systems that will work. Real estate and property managers need it to determine how efficient their systems are, and generate energy savings at scale. Thinking of installing a solar energy storage system? See if it’s feasible for you first — you’re going to need data. And then you’ll need more data (ongoing monitoring) to see if it’s working. Good data that’s easy to access undergirds every piece of technology we have to fight climate change.
Restricted data and haphazard sharing practices hurt us all — consumers, clean energy providers and utilities. They distract us from the actual work of fighting climate change, forcing solution providers and innovators to focus on getting the data they need to decarbonize and making utilities scramble to provide it. It doesn’t have to be this way.
To be clear, we’re not suggesting that private data be available to anyone. What we’re advocating for is easy-to-use data access if/when the consumer consents.
Once they have easy access to high quality data, innovators, providers and utilities are free to focus on what they actually want to do. The utilities that understand the importance of data sharing are leading the way with more progressive business models that benefit their customers and their bottom line. That’s good news for everyone. But there aren’t enough of them. Yet.
In the interest of encouraging more of this win-win progress, we’re going to share and break down UtilityAPI’s list of six guidelines for data sharing.
1. Full Data Set
What should happen: Standardized data set, available for historical and ongoing data access.
Why it matters: If/when data becomes available, it’s often incomplete or inconsistent to the point of being unusable. Standardized data encourages innovation by leveling the playing field. No one solution provider has an advantage based on what kind of data they can get or how much money they can pay for proprietary software to standardize the data. For a detailed list of what constitutes a full data set, feast your eyes on Appendix A, here.
2) In-the-Moment Data Access
What should happen: Data delivered on demand, upon authorization and authentication. Here’s the standard we’d like to see: within 90 seconds of an authorized data sharing request, the data should begin streaming.
Why it matters: Data delayed is often data denied (or forgotten about). Some utilities require up to 40 days (!) to respond to a data sharing request. A data sharing request shouldn’t require that much time. How many potential energy projects will wither and die after 40 days of neglect?
3) Instant, Digital Authorization
What should happen: Simple online authorization is all it takes to authorize data sharing.
Why it matters: We should get out of our own way. State and local governments have earnestly committed to admirable clean energy policies. We need to make it as easy as possible for concerned citizens and solution providers to actually make good on those promises. Consent doesn’t have to be cumbersome. Just obvious and clear.
4) Instant, Consumer-Centric Authentication
What should happen: All parties ask for the same consumer-friendly authentication credentials, for example, phone number + texted code, or utility login if they have one. No third-party should be held to a higher authentication standard than the utility itself.
Why it matters: Complex authentication and unexpected delays confuse consumers. They start to wonder if their data is still secure and private. Customers should be able to use a familiar online experience to authorize the release of their data using a proven and secure system.
5) One-click, Seamless User Experience
What should happen: Once a consumer who wants to share their data has authenticated their account, it only takes one click to start sharing. A utility account holder can begin and end the process on a third-party website. The consumer can approve or reject all requests, as they see fit. The consumer should get a receipt after they authorize data sharing that includes the ability to revoke consent at any time.
Why it matters: First, similar to #4, forcing the consumer to move between several websites in order to request data confuses people. Confused consumers worry that their data may be compromised. Furthermore, as online shopping has shown us, frictionless shopping experiences encourage people to buy. The same goes for clean energy projects. If we’re as serious about fighting climate change as we are about buying laundry detergent and toilet paper, we need to adopt the same tactic: frictionless buy-in.
6) Strong Security Protocols
What should happen: Both third parties and utilities use cybersecurity best practices to keep customer data secure. Current best practices include encryption at rest and in transit, token authentication for API, and transparency around how customer data is used.
Why it matters: You have to merit and earn trust. That’s a precious commodity. Encryption, audit logs, and keeping consumer data in the U.S. are key. We elaborate on recommended security elements in Appendix B here.
Want to talk more about consensual data sharing? It’s all we do, and we do it well. We’d love to hear from you. Utilities across the country are already working with our model to give their customers the data access they’re clamoring for (and that regulators are requiring). We design our systems to be reproducible country-wide. Let’s talk about how to make it work for you.
All blog posts are to help UtilityAPI users connect with their customers and successfully collect their utility data.