In a recent report to the Swedish Energy Markets Inspectorate (Broberg et al., 2014) consumer behavior and consumer flexibility concerning energy use were analyzed. Two main conclusions were drawn. First, electricity consumption follows a regular pattern over the day, week, and year, which to a large extent reflects household living patterns and climate variations over the year. Second, the average household needs a substantial economic compensation to voluntarily reschedule its electricity use away from peak demand hours. The required compensations were found to be far higher than the economic incentives households face today when exposed to real-time pricing. In addition, it was found that households are more flexible in the use of electricity for heating than in the use of electrical appliances. Finally, households were found to be more flexible during the morning peak hours than during the evening hours. These findings led to the overall conclusion that both the possibilities and incentives are such that we cannot expect any substantial change in energy use patterns from technical reforms that creates incentives for demand response in line with the current price variation on the wholesale market for electricity.
In the above-mentioned report we also analyzed people’s attitudes towards information dissemination. We concluded that many households do not wish to have their electricity use scrutinized by experts and other households. We found that people, on average, required a compensation to allow such information sharing. Again, new technologies open for various demand response policies, although it does not necessarily imply substantially higher demand flexibility. New technologies need to be combined with consumer interest to be successful in a market economy.
The overall objective of the current report is to further scrutinize consumer behavior and flexibility. The first part focuses on Swedish households’ choice of electricity supplier contracts. Specifically, we analyze what types of households choose a fixed price contract. 1 The choice of contract implicitly reveals a consumer’s flexibility since a fixed price contract works as an insurance against price variation. So, by studying what type of households chose a fixed price contract we are able to infer on which type of households are relatively inflexible. This part of the analysis is policy relevant since it touches on the question of what to expect from real-time pricing reforms. A central question is whether a household who uses relatively more electricity is more likely to have a fixed price contract. If this is the case, future access to real-time pricing and a greater price variation may not be a guarantee for a substantial increase in demand response as important consumers (from a policy perspective) are more likely to insure against such circumstances. From this perspective the market for price insurances (fixed price contracts) is a market for inflexibility.
While the analysis above considers the effectiveness of future energy policies to promote demand response, it is also relevant to study the question of how the peak demand problem may develop over time. This question is explicitly addressed in the current report by studying how consumer behavior varies across income levels. The existing literature suggests that electricity consumption is positively related to income, although the income elasticity 2 is fairly small. However, almost all studies concerning income effects have studied aggregate electricity use on monthly or yearly basis. The present study departs from the existing literature by studying how daily household electricity use patterns vary across income levels. This approach is novel since it allows us to analyze how the peak load problem may develop in the future as a result of higher income levels, which is commonly expected.
By studying the choice of electricity contracts and by estimating hourly income elasticities, the report approach demand flexibility in an indirect way. In the third analysis of the report we address these issues again, although with a somewhat more direct approach. The choice experiment part in Broberg et al. (2014), which focused on the economic incentives needed in order to change people’s energy consumption in a predefined way, is now deepened. The focus is on how socio-economic factors such as e.g. age, gender, education and income may explain preference heterogeneity among the Swedish population. Energy related factors such as living conditions and heating systems are also considered in the analysis. This analysis will inform us about what types of households are inclined to reschedule their energy use when given relatively small economic incentives, and what household’s that are relatively inflexible and thus require large compensations to change their behavior. We also study preference heterogeneity regarding information dissemination in purpose of anonymous peer comparisons.
In the final part of the report we deepen our analysis of households’ demand for information about their own and others electricity use. Besides creating incentives for demand response, new technologies included in the smart grid concept also make it possible for policy makers to use tailored information to help consumers to use energy more efficiently. A number of studies highlight inefficiencies in the households’ use of energy (see e.g. Broberg and Kazukauskas, 2014). One highlighted reality is that people seem to pay little attention to energy issues. Of course, if people pay little attention to the price of electricity, the effectiveness of policy measures that work through the pricechannel is limited. In this part of the report we address four basic questions of great relevance for energy efficiency policies worldwide. The questions are (1) What knowledge do people have about the marginal cost of electricity use in terms of everyday electrical appliances? (2) Are the cost perceptions biased and in what direction? (3) Do inattention to energy issues play a significant role in this bias? (4) Do households want information that may help them de-bias their perceptions about energy costs and use?
The report is structured such that section 2 gives a brief background on the issues analyzed in the report. The following sections correspond to the issues outlined in the introduction. Section 7 works to tie the analyses together and conclude our results
Eskilstuna: Energimarknadsinspektionen , 2015. , 34 p.