How Data Protection Paranoia Prevents Electromobility

Electric Bus Charging Stations in Stanford

As soon as Germany discusses electric vehicles, the focus turns immediately to the question whether there is enough electricity available for all those expected EVs. The answer is simple: Yes!

Assuming a full exchange of all cars to electric vehicles, the power demand would be at 105 terawatthours (TWh), which corresponds to 15 percent of the power that Germany produces today. Half of the additional demand can already be covered today. Germany itself is a net exporter of electricity and has enough reserves from gas power stations to cover the demand.

The real question to ask is how to get the additional power to the charging stations? The power lines need to be able to handle the additional demand, but in the past years the demand went down due to more and more energy efficient appliances used by households. To get the right amount of electricity to the right place at the right time, the power suppliers need to know more about the demand. To plan for that supply they need data.

And this is where Germany stumbles once more over its data privacy paranoia. The law requires a detailed per minute trail of power usage for households with smart meters only when the annual consumption is more than 6,000 kWh. But most households don’t surpass that amount even if they own an EV. The average annual usage is around 4,500 kWh.

The lawmakers argued with saving the costs of 10 to 20 Euro per year for smart meters per household, but savings due to data gathered would even that out pretty quickly. The concern is that the data collected on each household would allow conclusions on the number of tenants, their personal preferences, ad what appliances the household uses.

But the lack of available data prevents better energy planning and policy. Where and when those power demand peaks will be becomes difficult to predict without such information. In case of doubt the power providers have to bury stronger power lines at locations by just guessing the demand.

Besides the increased costs there are more ripple effects for Germany. With fewer data and less experience in digitization, there are fewer opportunities for new business models and startups. This is already reflected today in how much Germany is behind other countries in regards to digitization. While the five most valuable US corporations are all in the digital industry, the DAX 30 includes with SAP only one digital company that is globally significant. And even this company’s value is only a quarter of what those US companies are worth.

This data privacy paranoia that frightens Germany (and Europe) is not only costly for us, it also prevents us from creating new businesses and have existing industries such as the automotive space play a leading role on a global scale.

This article has also been published in German.

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