The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Consumer Behavior Studies are designed to answer key questions of interest to both the participating utilities and the electric power industry as a whole. The studies cover several types of time-based rates, customer systems, and experimental design features. Almost 150,000 customers from across the U.S. are involved.
The utilities listed in the table below are evaluating different rates and customer systems in their consumer behavior studies. Although most studies are assessing customer acceptance and response to time-based rates on an opt-in (i.e., voluntary) basis, a few are utilizing opt-out designs to test the effectiveness of this approach. A few studies are also including some form of bill protection (i.e., “best bill guarantee”) which will be at some point during the study to evaluate the differential effects on customer acceptance, retention and response.
A key policy question is the role that customer systems enabled by an electric utility’s investment in AMI can have on customer acceptance, retention and response to time-based rate programs. The table below summarizes how the U.S. Department of Energy’s consumer behavior studies will be addressing both rates and customer systems. A majority of the studies include in-home displays (IHD) which are information technologies that show consumers their level of usage and its cost. Several studies include programmable communicating thermostats (PCT) and direct load control (DLC) devices.