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Social Versus Private Benefits of Energy Efficiency Under Time-of-Use and Increasing Block Pricing

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Light bulb, photo credit: Anthony Indraus
Many energy policies are implemented to subsidize the adoption of energy efficiency. However, when private benefits from energy efficiency exceed the social benefits, there is an incentive for the consumers to over-invest in energy efficiency; otherwise, there is an incentive to under-invest. This study adds to this discussion by providing an empirical estimation of the electricity savings and social benefits after energy efficiency retrofits for consumers on time-of-use (TOU) and increasing block pricing, respectively. We aim to examine how social versus private savings from a given energy efficiency measure may be different depending on different pricing plans. This study applies hourly electricity data for about 16,000 residential consumers during 2013–2017 in Arizona. We show that for the TOU consumers, the private savings from energy-efficient AC retrofits are greater than the social savings by 61%, while the increasing block rate consumers’ private savings exceed the social savings by 46%, when other market failures are not considered (e.g., principal-agent problem and imperfect information). Different rate plans impose different marginal electricity prices which influence the incentives to invest in energy efficiency as well as electricity consumption behaviors that can influence both the private and social savings from energy efficiency. The result indicates that there should be potentially different levels of policy interventions towards energy efficiency for consumers on different pricing. Additionally, we also find that energy efficiency makes the electricity demand more elastic to price changes.

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