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By 2020, less than 1% of residential customers in the U.S. will be on dynamic pricing plans unless the industry acts aggressively to counter barriers to adoption, according to a new report from Navigant Research.

The research firm says dynamic pricing for utility customers, based on rate structures that include changes in rates in response to changes in grid conditions, has long been viewed as a means of reducing energy costs and improving the utilization of electricity generation and delivery assets.

Nevertheless, Navigant reports that such systems still face considerable barriers to adoption and are likely to remain elusive to most customers in the U.S. over the near term.

According to the research firm, utilities generally view dynamic rates and time-based rates as disruptive threats to their traditional business models. As such, the economic impact to the vast majority of regulated entities is the primary barrier behind the slow introduction of innovative rate structures.

"Much of the promise of the smart grid relies on the widespread use of dynamic pricing plans," says Eric Woods, research director with Navigant. "If dynamic rates are to become widely available, there will need to be a significant shift in regulatory momentum and customer acceptance. If that happens, the level of adoption could reach five percent, or 7.7 million customers."

Navigant notes there is currently a continuum of rate structures that feature dynamic and time-based components, including time-of-use rates, demand response programs and other event-based incentive structures.

An important distinction between dynamic pricing and event-based programs, according to the report, is how they are implemented with regard to daily versus occasional consumer behavior patterns. Compared to episodic incentives that arise irregularly, dynamic rates will have a larger impact on the daily activities within a household (or by an energy management system), Navigant adds.

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