Not So Dynamic Future for Utility Dynamic Pricing Rate Plans

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Photo Credit. Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

Photo Credit. Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious

Behavioral psychologists say that we are more apt to show concern about energy – and use it prudently – if we receive regular visual clues about its cost.

Think about  how Americans latch on to news about oil markets.  This isn’t surprising, given the proliferation of road-side signs that constantly remind us what  gasoline costs. With electricity, it’s the opposite. The immediate price is invisible to us, so we consume blindly.

That’s why it is sobering to read the recent report by Navigant Research showing how slowly US households are adopting dynamic pricing rate plans.

Dynamic (time-of-use) pricing helps consumers tune into the actual cost of electricity as it changes throughout the day. The idea is to encourage use of  appliances when energy is cheap and plentiful, not when it is expensive because the grid is under strain.

The percentage of U.S. customers that have access to dynamic rates will increase from less than 3 percent in 2013 to about 14 percent  by 2020, according to Navigant’s base case forecast. But unless something changes, not even one percent of households will use the plans by 2020 because of consumer resistance and regulatory and economic barriers, says the report.

This is troublesome news given that the effectiveness of smart homes and smart grid often relies on accurate price signals.

Can we speed things up, please?

More from Navigant here.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.