STOWE, Vt. — As New England plans how to cope with peak winter electricity demand with a growing reliance on renewables, energy leaders in the region are calling on the states to look at developing time-varying rates to reduce costs and environmental burdens.

Speakers at the 75th New England Conference of Public Utilities Commissioners Symposium generally agreed on the need to develop rate structures that would better allow customers to respond to market signals, incentivizing them to reduce energy consumption during periods of limited energy supply. The vast majority of customers in the region currently pay flat rates, regardless of the amount of stress on the grid.

In order to accommodate customers with special needs or limited energy-use flexibility, the speakers agreed that if time-varying rates do become the default, customers need to have other options.

“We absolutely have to have an opt-out program where people can opt out if the rates are not working for them,” said Amy Boyd, vice president of climate and clean energy policy at Acadia Center.

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