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  • Writer's pictureD. Maurice Kreis

Data and its Discontents

One of the biggest reasons why the struggle to overcome cystic fibrosis is "the greatest story in medicine" is something the CF Foundation (CFF) pioneered beginning back in the 1960s: a national patient registry.

The registry contains information about how virtually every one of the nation's 30,000-plus CF patients is doing. The implications are profound: best practices are swiftly identified and publicly available outcomes data has triggered a "race to the top" among the nation's CFF-accredited care centers.

So, naturally, I've long been interested in how the power of data can be harnessed in connection with my day job as New Hampshire's advocate for the interests of residential utility customers. Last year, my office played a key role in getting the Legislature to pass and the Governor to sign a bill whose purpose is to create a statewide utility customer data platform.

What would a statewide utility customer data platform do? It would allow every utility customer in the state (both commercial and residential) to access data about electricity and natural gas usage. Even more significantly, such a platform would allow customers to authorize their data to be shared with unregulated, third-party providers of innovative services that would help customers save money and decarbonize.

This has the potential to give residential electric customers some real benefits from the restructuring process triggered back in 1996 when New Hampshire became one of the first states to order an end to the era of vertically integrated electric utilities. The 1996 Restructuring Act requires the utilities to divest their generation assets -- and when the market value of those assets would have imposed massive losses on the selling utilities, ratepayers made up much of the difference via so-called "stranded cost" charges. But, while commercial customers have made out nicely thanks to the resulting right to choose non-utility energy suppliers, studies suggest that residential customers have not similarly benefited.

Now, though, we have the possibility of Community Power Aggregation -- basically, municipalities become the buying agent of their citizens and acquire wholesale electricity and energy-related services for the residential and commercial utility customers within the town or city borders. The statewide utility customer data platform could be a powerful tool to that end.

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