My husband and I still have an extremely antiquated utility meter at our home, which is hidden inside one of our basement closets. As a result, if we're not home, our monthly bill is a matter of guesswork on the part of Public Service Enterprise Group (did you know that's what PSEG stands for!), which makes for some pretty bizarre fluctuations. Ah, the joys of living in a small town where infrastructure improvements usually reach last. (Sigh.)
I thought about this when I received a couple of news releases over the past few weeks from software company Aclara, which has developed several applications that let residential and commercial customers monitor and manage their energy bills. In the past two months, the company has disclosed deals with Puget Sound Energy in Washington state, which now lets customers start, stop, transfer and manage their accounts online; and with NV Energy (aka Nevada Power Company and Sierra Pacific Power Company).
The latter deal, which is for Aclara's ENERGYprism software, now lets the utility's 1.2 million customers analyze their bills online to understand how much energy they're using and exactly where and when. The application also provides feedback as to steps customers can take to cut back their consumption or, at the very least, push it into periods where rates aren't as high.
If you have a choice about which utility company you use in your area, I hope you consider visibility such as this as just important as what rates you'll be paying. I don't really have a choice right now, but I'll be watching this closely.