The Science of Flick
Encouraging customers to shift usage is known as a cost effective means to manage a changing utility grid. Some markets including California, Arizona, Michigan and others are moving customers to electric rates based on time as a way to engage customers as participants to help manage system costs. Numerous other areas have special "demand response" programs to encourage customers to reduce usage during various days and times throughout the year. Despite significant education efforts and stated customer willingness to shift usage to reduce bills, many consumers have low levels of awareness about energy prices and levels of GHG by time of day. This creates the possibility of unexpectedly higher bills as well as “low hanging” opportunities for energy and carbon savings.
Research from large time-based rate pilots in California have found that even after one year on new rates up to 80% of customers don’t remember expensive times:
(Actual weekday pricing of San Diego Gas & Electric)
Signaling devices similar to Flick have been proven to increase user response to prices versus price signals alone. Work from the Brattle Group examining 30 trials from around the globe concludes devices significantly add to customer response (orange) versus customer response from prices alone (blue).
Similar work conducted for the National Bureau of Economic Research by Jessoe & Rapson concluded:
“The incremental contribution of feedback (with device) is ... a three-fold increase in the behavioral response. By industry standards, the magnitude of these effects is remarkable and points to a level of customer engagement not often seen."
So Why Aren't These Devices Everywhere? Stand Alone Devices Are Not Used Persistently, If At All:
Several trials have found customers either fail to plug-in and set-up devices, even if free, and, or, do not use them persistently. Downloadable apps have similar adoption issues and don’t target all energy users in a dwelling. Work in 2012 conducted by Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and a trial in 2018 completed by San Diego Gas and electric (SDG&E) produced similar results demonstrating stand alone devices are not a wise utility investment:
Flick solves for the shortcomings of previous transient devices, which are known to be "in the way," and often are discarded after just a few weeks.
When installed on behalf of customers, there is no need for additional set-up, and new tenants in rented homes will continue to be educated so they can participate in utility programs and better manage bills. Utilities and policymakers can be assured that signals will always reach the actual energy user in a building, regardless of the actual accountholder, who may or may not receive and pass educational information on to other energy users.
With Flick, the universal language of color coded signals embedded into a light switch can revolutionize how energy users interact with local energy providers.