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Knowledge is (Less) Power: Experimental Evidence from Residential Energy Use

  • Katrina Jessoe
  • David Rapson

This paper presents experimental evidence that information feedback dramatically increases the price elasticity of demand in a setting where signals about quantity consumed are traditionally coarse and infrequent. In a randomized controlled trial, residential electricity customers are exposed to price increases, with some households also receiving displays that transmit high-frequency information about usage and prices. This substantially lowers information acquisition costs and allows us to identify the marginal information effect. Households only experiencing price increases reduce demand by 0 to 7 percent whereas those also exposed to information feedback exhibit a usage reduction of 8 to 22 percent, depending on the amount of advance notice. The differential response across treatments is significant and robust to the awareness of price changes. Conservation extends beyond the treatment window, providing evidence of habit formation, spillovers, and greenhouse gas abatement. Results suggest that information about the quantity consumed facilitates learning, which likely drives the treatment differential.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18344.

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Date of creation: Aug 2012
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Katrina Jessoe & David Rapson, 2014. "Knowledge Is (Less) Power: Experimental Evidence from Residential Energy Use," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(4), pages 1417-38, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18344
Note: EEE
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  1. Lei Feng & Mark Seasholes, 2005. "Do Investor Sophistication and Trading Experience Eliminate Behavioral Biases in Financial Markets?," Review of Finance, Springer, vol. 9(3), pages 305-351, 09.
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  8. Severin Borenstein & Stephen P. Holland, 2003. "On the Efficiency of Competitive Electricity Markets With Time-Invariant Retail Prices," NBER Working Papers 9922, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. 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.
  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.
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