At the inaugural meeting of the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP), Chris Irwin of the Department of Energy (DoE) made the case that in the context of the smart grid utilties need innovation and that open data is a route need to take advantage of by way of encouraging innovation.
He cited the Green Button program as an interoperability (SGIP) victory. Green Button started out as a Department of Energy technical initiative which SGIP picked up as Priority Action Plan (PAP) 10 and helped to rapidly become a practical standard that brought real value to the consumer. Currently 30 million consumers in the U.S. have access to their power usage data through Green Button programs implemented by their local utility. Another 50 million consumers will be getting it soon.
I have blogged about countries, states, counties and cities making their data open. But open data and utilities almost seemed an oxymoron. So I was very surprised at the rate of adoption of open data not only in the U.S. but also in Ontario, where according to Saha Sud, of MaRS Discovery District apparently half the province now has access to power usage data through a Green Button program.
From Chris Irwin's perspective open data is good for utilities for the same reason that municipal governments have opened their data to developers and encouraged hackfests. It is a way of bringing innovation into utilties, which have traditionally been concerned with "keeping the lights on" and as a result have a conservative technical culture.