Load Shifting in a Smart Grid

Research Highlights

- Only a small fraction of Swiss households respond to price signals for load shifting

- Benefits from load shifting campaigns that rely on prompt consumer action are small

- Costs of recruiting more than the (small) group of energy enthusiasts are high



Electricity providers can benefit from load shifting as a means to reduce peak demand or by post- or preponing delivery in case of temporarily low or excessive wholesale prices. Today, load shifting at a household level is mostly accomplished by automatic control of large appliances. Alternatively, users can be contacted directly to re-schedule relevant activities. Such behavioral load shifting campaigns can be motivated by monetary incentives (dynamic tariffs) and by appealing to altruistic motives in case it benefits renewable energy sources. However, it is unclear how consumers respond to such campaigns, in particular in countries like Switzerland, with relatively low electricity prices and high household incomes.  



In cooperation with a utility company, a large campaign was launched to recruit test households; the program was framed as a regular product introduction to measure the response rate for different tariff schemes with low and high financial incentives. After the recruitment, different communication channels (online portal, in-home-displays) were tested, with load shifted as the depended variable.



After a strong response of a small group of energy and technology enthusiasts, recruiting became difficult. This indicates that studies that rely on the one to five percent of volunteer participants very likely overstate the effect of such campaigns, and their results should be treated with caution. In the study, it proved difficult to trigger substantial load shifting.  


This project has been funded by BKW


Thorsten Staake, Tobias Gramel, Elgar Fleisch 


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