One of the most important aspects for successful implementation of time-based rate programs is better understanding of how to engage and communicate with customers. The Department of Energy's consumer behavior studies, carried out under the Smart Grid Investment Grant Program, provide an unprecedented opportunity to advance industry's knowledge-base about the impacts and benefits of time-based rate programs implemented in conjunction with advanced metering infrastructure, in-home displays, programmable communicating thermostats, and web portals.

The utilities learned valuable lessons about consumer engagement at each of the various phases of the study: planning time-based rate programs, recruiting customers to participate, operating the programs, and conducting post-study evaluations to assess results and determine next steps. There was a recognized need for consumer engagement activities to be ongoing, properly funded, and integrated explicitly into every phase of the studies to ensure success. Additionally, for consumer engagement activities to be successful there are needs to address for greater internal coordination and organizational effectiveness in applying internal and external capabilities and resources through cross-functional teams and other approaches. Furthermore, utilities need to find more effective ways to work with vendors and ensure that fully verified and validated products and services are the ones offered to customers. Lastly, there is a need for having utilities communicate with each other in candid discussions about what works and doesn’t work with respect to consumer engagement. Overall, the lessons learned from their consumer engagement efforts offered practical steps that can reduce risks and increase efficiencies, thereby lowering project costs and increasing the chances of successful outcomes.

The report is now available for downloading.