A private utility company hopes to use public money along with their own capital to upgrade the electricity grid. That should save a significant fraction of the power currently wasted. This isn't just about turning off lights when you leave a room. This is about using digital tech and analytic software to reduce load peaks, redistribute power, make everything run more efficiently.
In Kentucky Duke Energy has built a model prototype of their vision of a smart electricity grid. Duke's tech exec sees the whole process as adding sensors, smart appliances, getting the system all networked and communicating. Then the users will alter their behavior to save money, power and reduce waste. For example, your dinner dishes would automatically wash overnight when the power grid has excess capacity.
Smart meters would alert home and business customers to periods when energy is cheaper.
Duke's first smart grid was already aimed at the Cincinnati area and with federal stimulus money added to the pot, the company hopes to network the grid there within a few years.