Big Data, Behavioral Economics, and the Traditional Economics of Electricity Retail

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1 Big Data, Behavioral Economics, and the Traditional Economics of Electricity Retail Hunt Allcott New York University and National Bureau of Economic Research

2 Traditional Economics Maximize utility by correcting market failures and then letting markets work. So energy regulators should: Get prices right Control market power Inform consumers Encourage markets 2

3 Behavioral Economics, Randomization, and Big Data 3

4

5 Two Case Studies 1. Time-varying pricing 2. Energy efficiency 5

6 Residential time-varying pricing slow to develop Why? Two historical concerns: 1. Most residential customers won t respond to time-varying prices 2. Most residential customers will dislike time-varying prices 6

7 Time-Varying Pricing Pilot in California Opt-in Treatment group (time-varying pricing) Opt-out Control group (standard pricing) Source: Cappers, Fowlie, Spurlock, Todd, Wolfram, and Baylis (2015) 7

8 Time-Varying Pricing Pilot in California Opt-in Treatment group (time-varying pricing) 20% on timevarying pricing Opt-out Control group (standard pricing) 90% on timevarying pricing Source: Cappers, Fowlie, Spurlock, Todd, Wolfram, and Baylis (2015) 8

9 Residential consumers respond to peak prices Peak Load Reductions from Critical Peak Pricing Treatment Groups Source: Cappers, Fowlie, Spurlock, Todd, Wolfram, and Baylis (2015) 9

10 Residential consumers respond to peak prices Peak Load Reductions from Critical Peak Pricing Treatment Groups Source: Cappers, Fowlie, Spurlock, Todd, Wolfram, and Baylis (2015) 10

11 Consumers like time-varying pricing Percent of who are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their pricing plan Source: Cappers, Fowlie, Spurlock, Todd, Wolfram, and Baylis (2015) 11

12 Consumers like time-varying pricing Percent of who are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their pricing plan Source: Cappers, Fowlie, Spurlock, Todd, Wolfram, and Baylis (2015) 12

13 Consumers like time-varying pricing Percent of who are very satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their pricing plan Source: Cappers, Fowlie, Spurlock, Todd, Wolfram, and Baylis (2015) 13

14 Residential time-varying pricing slow to develop Why? Two historical concerns: 1. Most residential customers won t respond to time-varying prices 2. Most residential customers will dislike time-varying prices 14

15 The goal of energy efficiency is to correct market failures Market failures: Lack of awareness Credit constraints Landlord-tenant problems Feasible but inferior substitute for pollution taxes 15

16 Correlates of utility energy efficiency subsidy takeup Income Environmentalism Not renters Source: Allcott, Knittel, and Taubinsky (2015) 16

17 When you get back to the office Ask how energy efficiency programs can be improved Do our programs effectively address market failures? Are subsidies largely benefiting the wealthy? Push harder for timevarying pricing It s the most efficient way to reduce peak load... and consumers might like it more than you think. 17

18 Big Data, Behavioral Economics, and the Traditional Economics of Electricity Retail Hunt Allcott New York University and National Bureau of Economic Research

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