Since 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy, using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the electric power industry have jointly invested over $7.9 billion in 99 cost-shared Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) projects. 

As part of the SGIG program, 10 electric utilities agreed to conduct 11 consumer behavior studies and produce comprehensive reports with the aim of evaluating customer responses to various types of time-based rate programs implemented in conjunction with information and control technologies such as in-home displays and programmable communicating thermostats. Four of the studies are complete; seven others are in various stagies of implementation.

This new report presents the results from the interim and final evaluations for the four utilities with projects completed by December 31, 2014, as well as results from the interim reports of six other utilities. The utilities' findings can be grouped into four areas: (1) recruitment approaches - opt-in vs. opt-out programs; (2) pricing vs. rebates; (3) customer information technologies; and (4) customer control technologies.

Major findings from DOE analysis of evaluations of the utilities' consumer behavior studies include:

  • Average peak demand reductions for customers taking service on Critical Peak Pricing (CPP) rates were almost twice (21%) what they were for customers participating in Critical Peak Rebate (CPR) programs (11%). However, when automated controls were provided, peak demand reductions were about the same (30% for CPP and 29% for CPR).
  • Opt-out enrollment rates were about 3.5 times higher than they were for opt-in, and retention rates for both were about the same. While demand reductions for opt-in customers were generally higher, one utility found opt-out enrollment approaches to be more cost-effective than comparable opt-in offers due to significantly higher aggregate benefits and lower marketing costs.

The full report is available for downloading below.