Our energy footprints: carbon emissions and privacy

Our energy footprints: carbon emissions and privacy

Our energy footprints: carbon emissions and privacy


We live in a data rich environment. We also leave a carbon footprint in our day to day lives. Current approaches to reducing emissions have focused on big emitters but evolving technology is enabling energy savvy consumers to save money while contributing to climate change mitigation efforts. What started with smart thermostats is likely to escalate with our increasingly connected world. Smart grids and smart devices (and the “internet of things”) may soon reveal a detailed narrative of your energy consumptive day.

This energy narrative will be of value to many people – government, industry and individuals – in tracking energy consumption and evaluating climate mitigation efforts across an entire economy. In the same instance, individuals and companies may not want their energy story shared. What is a reasonable expectation of privacy in relation to our energy stories, if any?

Carbon emissions and privacy

The ELC’s new report Energy Consumption Data and Rights to Privacy: Climate change mitigation policy, privacy and the “internet of things” in Alberta summarizes the current provincial and federal privacy frameworks in the context of energy consumption. The report concludes that there is a need to increase the efficacy of gathering energy consumption information to efficiently evaluate the effectiveness of climate policy. Similarly, there is a need to clarify what type of private information should be publicly disclosable to foster goals related to education and awareness among citizens.

The ELC recommends undertaking statutory reforms to ensure public authorities have the tools they need for climate mitigation policies to succeed while respecting the privacy of citizens. The amendments proposed are focused on efficient and effective data gathering and sharing among public authorities and utilities. The amendments also focus on providing additional clarity around when and how data may be gathered, used, shared and distributed by public authorities to facilitate individual behavioural changes.




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Share this:
  • Jeff Surtees
    Posted at 05:58h, 25 February Reply

    Thanks for this great paper that raises fascinating issues which go beyond energy consumption.

  • Alan Smith
    Posted at 22:34h, 24 January Reply

    Major advances in technology will be needed if greenhouse emissions are to be reduced in Canada. Individual behaviour changes will not be enough. The Fraser Institute notes that instead of reducing emissions since the benchmark year of 1990 Canadian emissions have increased by 18%.. Immigration is a sacred cow but unless immigration is linked to reductions in emissions then little will be achieved. It is not a cases of population migration as life in a cold country means high levels of greenhouse emissions and most countries are
    colder than Canada..

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