Powerchoice Residential Customer Response to TOU Rates
Research Into Action, Inc. and the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) worked together to conduct research on the behaviors and energy use patterns of SMUD residential customers who voluntarily signed on to a Time-of-Use rate pilot launched under the PowerChoice label. The project was designed to consider the how and why of residential customers’ ability and willingness to engage in demand reduction behaviors, and to link social and behavioral factors to observed changes in demand. The research drew on a combination of load interval data and three successive surveys of participating households. Two experimental treatments were applied to test the effects of increased information on households’ ability to respond to the Time-of-Use rates. Survey results indicated that participants understood the purpose of the Time-of-Use rate and undertook substantial appropriate actions to shift load and conserve. Statistical tests revealed minor initial price effects and more marked, but still modest, adjustments to seasonal rate changes. Tests of the two information interventions indicated that neither made much difference to consumption patterns. Despite the lackluster statistical evidence for load shifting, the analysis points to key issues for critical analysis and development of residential Time-of-Use rates, especially pertinent as California sets the stage for demand response in more California residences.