Household response to dynamic pricing of electricity: a survey of 15 experiments
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Since the energy crisis of 2000–2001 in the western United States, much attention has been given to boosting demand response in electricity markets. One of the best ways to let that happen is to pass through wholesale energy costs to retail customers. This can be accomplished by letting retail prices vary dynamically, either entirely or partly. For the overwhelming majority of customers, that requires a change out of the metering infrastructure, which may cost as much as $40 billion for the US as a whole. While a good portion of this investment can be covered by savings in distribution system costs, about 40% may remain uncovered. This investment gap could be covered by reductions in power generation costs that could be brought about through demand response. Thus, state regulators in many states are investigating whether customers will respond to the higher prices by lowering demand and if so, by how much. To help inform this assessment, this paper surveys the evidence from the 15 most recent pilots, experiments and full-scale implementations of dynamic pricing of electricity. It finds conclusive evidence that households respond to higher prices by lowering usage. The magnitude of price response depends on several factors, such as the magnitude of the price increase, the presence of central air conditioning and the availability of enabling technologies such as two-way programmable communicating thermostats and always-on gateway systems that allow multiple end-uses to be controlled remotely. In addition, the design of the studies, the tools used to analyze the data and the geography of the assessment influence demand response. Across the range of experiments studied, time-of-use rates induce a drop in peak demand that ranges between 3 and 6% and critical-peak pricing (CPP) tariffs induce a drop in peak demand that ranges between 13 and 20%. When accompanied with enabling technologies, the latter set of tariffs lead to a reduction in peak demand in the 27–44% range.
KeywordsDynamic pricing Price elasticity Elasticity of substitution Demand models Demand response Rate design
JEL ClassificationL51 L94 D00
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