This report provides a synthesis of research relating to household electricity consumption feedback, both past and ongoing. The key findings of past summary studies are presented, and the areas that require further research are examined in detail. The report also proposes an economic framework that can provide the basis for further empirical research to comprehensively address various outstanding research gaps. Going forward, a research collaboration proposal is outlined that will allow for the characterization of the cost and benefits attributable to providing households with electricity consumption feedback information.
This report moves the feedback debate along by helping readers to understand the concerns that utilities, regulators, and customers may have about feedback. This is important because regulators and utilities rely on cost-benefit analyses to direct their investments, which can be substantial and irreversible in the case of feedback. From a customer perspective, households should be provided with conservation tools that improve their ability to manage their resources; these tools should be suitable to a wide range of needs and circumstances, and their benefits should be equitably distributed.
This report will be of value to personnel at utilities and organizations poised to embark on new feedback-related research. By understanding key research areas that require resolution, and through the proposed collaborative research approach, research and investment dollars can be leveraged across multiple collaborators.
The goal of this report was to document the existing state of feedback research and to develop a way to address outstanding research questions. This was accomplished by considering the issue of feedback from both behavior science and economic theoretical perspectives. Past empirical work (mostly from the behavior science literature) and current research activity were reviewed. An economic framework is detailed that can provide the basis for further research to comprehensively address various outstanding research gaps.
Research findings suggest that residential electricity use feedback can be an effective tool in encouraging conservation. EPRI reviewed several past studies and found overall conservation effects that ranged from being negative (in one case, although on-peak reduction did occur) to 18%. This wide range suggests that there is more to be understood about feedback before its impacts are widely accepted. Research areas requiring additional focus relate to study participation levels, the persistence of feedback effects, the relative value of different types of feedback, dynamic pricing interactions, and distinguishing the effects of feedback among different demographic groups. Current utility research activity will address many of these areas, but it is difficult for any one utility to address all of them. A proposal is outlined to develop a widespread research collaborative to fully characterize how feedback affects residential electricity consumption.
Application, Value and Use
Several feedback research initiatives are underway, others are being designed, and still others are being contemplated. Moreover, the rollout of advanced metering in some markets creates new opportunities to broaden the scale and scope of the research. Evaluated in isolation, they may contribute only marginally to the full and widely accepted characterization of feedback mechanisms and how these mechanisms affect household electricity consumption. Alternatively, if coordinated, they can provide the information needed for all parties to competently characterize the cost and benefits attributable to providing households with electricity consumption feedback information.
Given its network of utility members and other key players in the utility industry, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is uniquely positioned both to stay current with ongoing feedback-related research activity and to coordinate the proposed collaborative research agenda.