On April 4, 2011, the Article 29 Working Party (the “Working Party”) issued an Opinion to clarify the legal framework applicable to smart metering technology in the energy sector (the “Opinion”).

Smart meters are digital meters that record energy consumption and enable two-way remote communication with the wider network for purposes such as monitoring and billing, and to forecast energy demand. Smart meters are intended to allow the industry to better regulate energy supply, and to help individuals reduce consumption. According to the Working Party, however, the analysis and exchange of smart metering information has the potential to be privacy-invasive.

The Working Party notes that the types of data being processed in the context of smart metering, such as unique smart meter IDs, metadata referring to the configuration of the smart meter, message content and the date and time of the transmission, fall within the definition of personal data of the EU Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC. Companies that are involved in smart metering activities, such as energy suppliers and network operators, will therefore need to comply with applicable EU data protection laws.

Some of the EU data protection requirements addressed in the Opinion include privacy by design, data security, consumers’ access rights and data retention periods. The Working Party also emphasizes that consumers should be properly informed about how, and for what purposes, their data will be used.

View a copy of the Opinion.

Read our October 2010 post on the United States Department of Energy’s report on privacy issues related to Smart Grid technology.