Analysis of a randomised-controlled trial on a sample of almost 2500 Irish households revealed one surprising result: compared to the control group, households provided with a smart meter, detailed feedback on usage, and time-of-use pricing reduced investment in energy efficiency projects.
While this unexpected development appears treated by the researchers as an embarrassment to be overcome, the result should be celebrated. Despite spending less on energy efficiency projects like insulating blankets on water heaters or extra attic insulation, treatment-group households still reduced power consumption both at peak and overall as compared to control-group households. Or, to put it the other way, control-group households spent more on energy efficiency projects and still consumed relatively more power than consumers provided with smart meters, feedback, and time-of-use pricing.
Or, to sum it up more pointedly, giving consumers better information and better incentives helps consumers avoid wasting money on feel-good energy efficiency projects.
Citation: McCoy, Daire, and Sean Lyons. “Unintended outcomes of electricity smart-metering: trading-off consumption and investment behaviour.” Energy Efficiency (2016): 1-20. http://doi.org/bmtr.
[HT to Alessandro Rubino who discussed the article in Nature Energy.]