New Legislation: The Access to Consumer Energy Information Act Aims to Educate Consumers and Enact Change

By Macie Melendez, Managing Editor, Building Performance Journal

Last week, Congressman Peter Welch introduced legislation to make energy and natural gas usage data available to consumers: the Access to Consumer Energy Information Act (“E–Access Act”). “Giving consumers control over their energy data will empower them to lower their energy bills,” said Welch.

The E-Access Act does two things. First, it directs the Department of Energy to establish guidelines for utilities to securely share energy and natural gas data with consumers. Secondly, it allows the State Energy Program to provide grants to increase consumer access to energy use data.

“Access to buildings’ energy data offers insights on how a building uses energy and thus gives contractors and technology companies vital information to help building owners save energy through targeted energy efficiency upgrades,” said Keith Aldridge, President and CEO of the Building Performance Association. “We applaud Rep. Welch for tackling this issue and calling on the Department of Energy to establish best practices and a common set of guidelines for safe and secure energy data access.”

The E-Access Act would support the adoption of best practices and policies to allow building owners to access and share their own electricity and natural gas data, helping advance energy efficiency and innovation to save energy and create cost savings for U.S. citizens and businesses.

Importantly, the E-Access Act does not create any mandates for states, and it allows for input from states and other stakeholders. The Act directs the Secretary to consult with state and local regulatory authorities, other appropriate federal agencies, consumer and privacy advocacy groups, electric and gas utilities, and national and state energy efficiency and contractor organizations before issuing guidelines.

Enhancing access to energy data will drive innovation to reduce energy waste, lower energy bills, and increase our nation’s energy security.

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Comment by Dennis Heidner on Thursday

For Steve Kramer,

Once a month bills - make it quite difficult to identify how the energy in the house is being used.  For the gas bill - is the largest use for a hot water heater,  the furnace or gas range?  By making the data available in smaller discrete time periods as consumers want them -- and possibly online, it makes it possible to find the where the energy is being used and take steps to improve the processes that are consuming the energy.

But there is another reason - one that most people don't think about.  In the days (and still common by some utiliities) the meters are not read every month.  Instead they might have reduced staff and instead read them every two or three months and each month simply project the consumption for the bill based on prior use history of the house.  When the meter is finally read, they do a "true-up" to fix the differences.   Occasionally there have been horror stories in which the true up happens only to hit the consumer with a bill in the THOUSANDS.... because they had new air conditioners installed -- didn't notice change in bill and they then ran AC a lot -- until the true up bill arrived.

Comment by Building Performance Association on February 14, 2020 at 2:07pm

Hi Steve - There are only three states in the US that provide this level of access to energy data. This would provide guidance for states that wish to establish energy data access policies.

Comment by Steve Kramer on February 14, 2020 at 11:34am

I guess I'm confused by this. It seems like a solution in search of a problem. Where I live (Southern Indiana) every month we receive a statement showing how many kilowatt hours we used and if one has natural gas service, how many therms were used. This information is available in my printed bill or from my online customer portal. So, what am I missing? What does this bill give me that I don't already have?

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