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Glenn College Colloquium - Foregrounding Consumers in Residential Demand-side Response Programs

Event Type
Event Date
March 20, 2023
11 a.m. - 12 p.m. ET
Hybrid: Page Hall Room 130 (LEC) or Zoom Meeting

Glenn College Colloquium with Nicole Sintov, Ph.D.

Foregrounding Consumers in Residential Demand-side Response Programs

Demand-side response measures, which facilitate integration of intermittent renewable generation into electric grids, are gaining prominence. For instance, time-of-use (TOU) rates charge higher prices during high-demand ‘on-peak’ times in an attempt to shift electricity use to other times. However, consumers generally have poor understanding of their electricity use and bills, raising questions about the extent to which TOU participation is driven by perceptions of monetary savings versus actual savings. Further, TOU rates may disproportionately impact vulnerable households who face greater energy needs combined with greater social and financial pressures. In two studies, we seek to (1) examine how consumers’ inaccurate perceptions about electric bills influence TOU acceptance and (2) evaluate the impacts of TOU on vulnerable consumers’ bill and health outcomes. We use billing, electricity usage, and survey data from a TOU pilot conducted by a southwestern United States utility in 2016. We find that perceived savings is the strongest predictor of intent to remain on TOU, over and above actual savings, despite being only weakly related to actual changes in bills. Additionally, assignment to TOU vs. control rates disproportionately increases bills for households with elderly and disabled occupants, and predicts worse health outcomes for households with disabled and ethnic minority occupants relative to non-vulnerable counterparts. Residents may thus join DSR programmes based on perceived monetary savings without achieving actual savings, thus impacting household finances. Further, future DSR programmes should be designed with care to avoid exacerbating existing energy injustices or creating new ones.

Dr. Nicole Sintov serves as Associate professor of Behavior, Decision-making, and Sustainability in OSU’s School of Environment and Natural Resources. She is also a core faculty member of OSU’s Sustainability Institute. She is an environmental psychologist, having earned her PhD in Psychology from the University of Southern California. Broadly, her work aims to advance psychological theory while producing insights that can be applied to benefit the environment and human welfare. She focuses on the role of individual-level behavior and decision-making in sustainable consumption contexts, particularly with respect to the role of human behavior in the transition to a more just and sustainable energy system. Her work has been supported by NSF, foundations (e.g., Sloane), and industry sponsors (e.g., Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company). Her research appears in top journals including Nature Energy and Journal of Environmental Psychology, and has been covered by a variety of media outlets, including The Guardian, National Geographic, Wired Magazine, and CNN, among others.

No registration required. Attend in person at Page Hall Room 130 (LEC) or on Zoom by clicking "Join on Zoom".