Journal Article

Unintended Outcomes of Electricity Smart-metering: trading-off consumption and investment behaviour

April 1, 2017
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Smart-metering allows electricity utilities to provide consumers with better information on their energy usage and to apply time-of-use pricing. These measures have been shown to reduce electricity consumption and induce time-shifting of demand. Less is known about how they affect residential energy efficiency investment behaviour. We use data from a randomised-controlled trial on a sample of almost 2500 Irish consumers, conducted over a 12-month period to investigate the effect of smart-metering and residential feedback on household investment behaviour. The results show that exposure to time-of-use pricing and information stimuli, while reducing overall and peak usage, can also have the unintended effect of reducing investment in energy efficiency measures within the home. Our findings indicate that households exposed to treatment were less likely to adopt any energy saving measure (23–28 % on average), and those households adopted less energy saving features than those in the control group (15–21 % on average). This result highlights the potential for behavioural interventions to have unintended consequences on behaviours other than those specifically targeted. Furthermore, it underlines the importance of examining a wider range of outcomes and allowing longer time-scales when evaluating this type of experiment.