Customer Response to Day-ahead Wholesale Market Electricity Prices: Case Study of RTP Program Experience in New York
There is growing interest in policies, programs and tariffs that encourage customer loads to provide demand response (DR) to help discipline wholesale electricity markets. Proposals at the retail level range from eliminating fixed rate tariffs as the default service for some or all customer groups to reinstituting utility-sponsored load management programs with marketbased inducements to curtail. Alternative rate designs include time-of-use (TOU), day-ahead real-time pricing (RTP), critical peak pricing, and even pricing usage at real-time market balancing prices. Some Independent System Operators (ISOs) have implemented their own DR programs whereby load curtailment capabilities are treated as a system resource and are paid an equivalent value. The resulting load reductions from these tariffs and programs provide a variety of benefits, including limiting the ability of suppliers to increase spot and long-term market-clearing prices above competitive levels (Neenan et al, 2002; Borenstein, 2002; Ruff, 2002).
Unfortunately, there is little information in the public domain to characterize and quantify how customers actually respond to these alternative dynamic pricing schemes. A few empirical studies of large customer RTP response have shown modest results for most customers, with a few very price-responsive customers providing most of the aggregate response (Herriges et al, 1993; Schwarz et al, 2002). However, these studies examined response to voluntary, two-part RTP programs implemented by utilities in states without retail competition. Furthermore, the researchers had limited information on customer characteristics so they were unable to identify the drivers to price response. In the absence of a compelling characterization of why customers join RTP programs and how they respond to prices, many initiatives to modernize retail electricity rates seem to be stymied.