Sharing Negawatts: Property Law, Electricity Data, and Facilitating the Energy Sharing Economy

01 Jan 2019

While the sharing economy has mostly focused on tangible assets or facilitating labor transactions, the potential to incorporate sharing-in the form of changes to behavior that create societal good-requires a different construct for electricity: one focused on an intangible asset, specifically data. With data access and sharing, it becomes possible not only to value negawatts-the decision not to use electricity at a given time-but to provide an incentive for load reduction, load shifting, and peak shaving, all three of which provide societal benefits by aiding reliability, decreasing capital requirements, and preventing greenhouse gas emissions. While sharing data can itself have value and create a market that enables behavior change, the energy sharing economy around demand response is two-fold: the data are shared, which enables the market to value behavior changes, and, when that market indicates sufficient value, the demand response action is shared. By not using energy at that point in time-by removing electric load-sharing occurs, leading to system-wide and overall societal benefits. However, none of this will occur without clear ownership of-and, therefore, the ability to monetize-electricity usage data. This article will discuss the sharing economy and how those concepts could be applied to electricity, survey how different states have approached the ownership of electricity data, classify and explore the ownership of electricity usage data through the lens of traditional property law concepts, and discuss how those various solutions affect the ability to value demand response behaviors. It will then discuss what changes are necessary to facilitate the energy sharing economy.