But it also reflected the commission's doubts about the potential benefits of time-of-use electricity rates, Nadel said. "Yeah, there's some skepticism there," he said. The BGE's proposal "gave them a convenient hook to just say, 'Sorry.'" The Maryland commission invited BG&E to submit a revised plan, but it said it would not approve mandatory time-of-use rates.
How do you make consumers smarter?
The commission concluded that BG&E's proposal "contains no concrete, detailed customer education plan, includes no orbs or other in-home displays, and provides for grossly inadequate messaging, in our view, to trigger the behavior changes contemplated under the proposal." BG&E said it was stunned by the decision, particularly in light of its successful pilot programs to test consumer responses to household electricity conservation programs.
The challenge of winning consumer support for smart meter strategies and real time pricing has loomed larger and larger in energy forums over the past year, particularly after smart meter installations in Bakersfield, Calif., triggered consumers' complaints that their bills had shot up after the new equipment was installed.
State regulators want some certainty that time-of-use rates will work for consumers, Nadel said. "They don't want to be perceived as just rolling the dice" on the question, he said.
Nadel noted that 24 states have clean energy policies calling for increased energy efficiency and conservation. A full-fledged consumer education program supports these policies, he said.
Utilities with smart meter strategies, and vendors who make the equipment, agree that consumer education is essential. But smart meter advocates say new pricing policies are equally necessary as the nation moves toward a future of distributed rooftop solar units and plug-in electric hybrid vehicles -- technologies that are inseparably linked to hourly changes in energy use.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500