The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) requires investor-owned utilities to use time-of-use (TOU) rate pricing that discourages residential power use during periods of peak energy demand. With TOU, electricity prices are lower during off-peak hours and higher during peak usage.
How we are leading the way in TOU research
Our TOU studies help utility companies understand how best to educate customers about new rate plans. We assess the customer experience with TOU plans through mixed-mode surveys that leverage web, mail, and phone; as well as a variety of qualitative methods like focus groups, bulletin boards and interviews. These studies help identify effective modes of customer outreach and gaps in customer knowledge.
What we are finding
- Customers prefer a mix of communication modes. Direct mail marketing is an important strategy to increase awareness, but a mix of mail, email and advertisements is most effective.
- Although overall awareness about TOU plans is generally high, some customers do not fully understand rate plan options, how to take action to lower their bills, or what bill protection means.
- Targeted outreach to low-income and non-English customers is critical to ensure that these segments are able to understand and respond to the TOU rate plans.
As energy demand in the U.S. continues to rise, TOU rate pricing can help utilities accommodate residential energy needs. Marketing, education, and outreach about TOU plans should focus on inclusive strategies to clearly communicate rate plan options. Importantly, efforts should focus on augmenting outreach to non-English and low-income segments.