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Effective and Equitable Adoption of Opt-In Residential Dynamic Electricity Pricing

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  • Severin Borenstein

Abstract

While time-varying retail electricity pricing is very popular with economists, that support is not matched among regulators and consumers. Many papers have been written estimating and extolling the societal benefits of time-varying rates -- especially dynamic rates that change on a day's notice or less. Yet, such tariffs have been almost completely absent in the residential sector. In this paper, I present a potential approach to implementing an opt-in dynamic pricing plan that would be equitable to both customers who choose the rate and to those who choose to remain on a default flat-rate tariff. The approach bases the dynamic and the flat rate on the same underlying cost structure, and minimizes cross-subsidies between the two groups. I study the potential distributional impact of such a tariff structure using hourly consumption data for stratified random samples of customers from California's two largest utilities. I find that low-income households would, on average, see almost no change in their bills, while low-consumption households would see their bills decline somewhat and high-consumption households would see their bills rise. I also show that the opt-in approach is unlikely to increase the flat rate charged to other customers by more than a few percentage points. I then discuss the most common approach to implementing dynamic electricity pricing -- critical-peak pricing -- and suggest how it might be designed to more accurately match retail price spikes with periods of true supply shortages. Finally, I study the incentive problems created by an alternative program in growing use that pays customers to reduce their consumption on peak usage days.

Suggested Citation

  • Severin Borenstein, 2012. "Effective and Equitable Adoption of Opt-In Residential Dynamic Electricity Pricing," NBER Working Papers 18037, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18037 Note: EEE IO
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Severin Borenstein, 2007. "Customer Risk from Real-Time Retail Electricity Pricing: Bill Volatility and Hedgability," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 111-130.
    2. Kahn, Alfred E, 1979. "Applications of Economics to an Imperfect World," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 69(2), pages 1-13, May.
    3. Severin Borenstein, 2007. "Wealth Transfers Among Large Customers from Implementing Real-Time Retail Electricity Pricing," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 131-150.
    4. Severin Borenstein & Stephen Holland, 2005. "On the Efficiency of Competitive Electricity Markets with Time-Invariant Retail Prices," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(3), pages 469-493, Autumn.
    5. Koichiro Ito, 2014. "Do Consumers Respond to Marginal or Average Price? Evidence from Nonlinear Electricity Pricing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(2), pages 537-563, February.
    6. Severin Borenstein, 2005. "The Long-Run Efficiency of Real-Time Electricity Pricing," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 93-116.
    7. Faruqui, Ahmad & George, Stephen, 2005. "Quantifying Customer Response to Dynamic Pricing," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 53-63, May.
    8. Severin Borenstein, 2012. "The Redistributional Impact of Nonlinear Electricity Pricing," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 56-90, August.
    9. Herter, Karen & McAuliffe, Patrick & Rosenfeld, Arthur, 2007. "An exploratory analysis of California residential customer response to critical peak pricing of electricity," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 25-34.
    10. Severin Borenstein, 2002. "The Trouble With Electricity Markets: Understanding California's Restructuring Disaster," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(1), pages 191-211, Winter.
    11. Alexander, Barbara R., 2010. "Dynamic Pricing? Not So Fast! A Residential Consumer Perspective," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 23(6), pages 39-49, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Gambardella & Michael Pahle & Wolf-Peter Schill, 2016. "Do Benefits from Dynamic Tariffing Rise? Welfare Effects of Real-Time Pricing under Carbon-Tax-Induced Variable Renewable Energy Supply," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1621, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Gong, Chengzhu & Tang, Kai & Zhu, Kejun & Hailu, Atakelty, 2016. "An optimal time-of-use pricing for urban gas: A study with a multi-agent evolutionary game-theoretic perspective," Applied Energy, Elsevier, pages 283-294.
    3. Kaicker, Nidhi & Dutta, Goutam & Das, Debamanyu & Banerjee, Subhashree, 2017. "Mathematical Modelling for Time-of-Use Pricing of Electricity in Monopoly and Oligopoly," IIMA Working Papers WP 2017-10-01, Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad, Research and Publication Department.
    4. Koichiro Ito, 2015. "Asymmetric Incentives in Subsidies: Evidence from a Large-Scale Electricity Rebate Program," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 209-237, August.
    5. Shira Horowitz and Lester Lave, 2014. "Equity in Residential Electricity Pricing," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2).
    6. Yumi Yoshida & Kenta Tanaka & Shunsuke Managi, 2017. "Which dynamic pricing rule is most preferred by consumers?—Application of choice experiment," Journal of Economic Structures, Springer;Pan-Pacific Association of Input-Output Studies (PAPAIOS), vol. 6(1), pages 1-11, December.
    7. Simshauser, Paul & Whish-Wilson, Patrick, 2017. "Price discrimination in Australia's retail electricity markets: An analysis of Victoria & Southeast Queensland," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 92-103.
    8. John A. List & Robert D. Metcalfe & Michael K. Price & Florian Rundhammer, 2017. "Harnessing Policy Complementarities to Conserve Energy: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment," Experimental Economics Center Working Paper Series 2017-05, Experimental Economics Center, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    9. Kirkerud, Jon Gustav & Trømborg, Erik & Bolkesjø, Torjus Folsland, 2016. "Impacts of electricity grid tariffs on flexible use of electricity to heat generation," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 115(P3), pages 1679-1687.
    10. De Castro, Luciano & Dutra, Joisa, 2013. "Paying for the smart grid," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(S1), pages 74-84.
    11. repec:pal:jorsoc:v:68:y:2017:i:10:d:10.1057_s41274-016-0149-4 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Carlo Stagnaro, 2016. "Concorrenza e innovazione nei mercati retail dell energia elettrica. Le prospettive dopo il Ddl Concorrenza 2015," Note di discussione - MISE Working Papers mise-1, MISE - Ministero dello Sviluppo Economico.
    13. Yalcintas, Melek & Hagen, William T. & Kaya, Abidin, 2015. "Time-based electricity pricing for large-volume customers: A comparison of two buildings under tariff alternatives," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 58-68.
    14. Simshauser, Paul, 2016. "Distribution network prices and solar PV: Resolving rate instability and wealth transfers through demand tariffs," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 108-122.
    15. Claire Bergaentzlé, 2013. "From smart technology to smart consumers: for better system reliability and improved market efficiency," Post-Print halshs-01011169, HAL.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities

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