From the NYT (emphasis added):

Giving people the means to closely monitor and adjust their electricity use lowers their monthly bills and could significantly reduce the need to build new power plants…

Over a 20-year period, this could save $70 billion on spending for power plants and infrastructure, and avoid the need to build the equivalent of 30 large coal-fired plants, say scientists at the federal laboratory.

The whole article is pretty short, and worth reading. But in a nutshell, the Pacific Northwest Laboratory (part of the US Energy Department) recruited a little over a hundred homeowners on Washington’s Olympic peninsula, and hooked their thermostats, water heaters, and electric dryers to the internet. Then, through a web interface, homeowners could choose to automatically pare back their power consumption whenever electricity prices rose. In effect, the software let each participant choose their own trade-off between cost and comfort.

At the end of the test, the researchers estimated that giving homeowners better control over the cost-vs.-comfort tradeoff could cut peak power demand by 15 percent—enough to save all ratepayers a bundle of money. And all it took was some good information, personal control, and the right kind of incentives.

As one of the researchers said:

“Each household…doesn’t have to do a lot, but if something like this can be scaled up, the savings in investments you don’t have to make will be huge, and consumers and the environment will benefit.”

True ’nuff. So would somebody please raise my water heater’s IQ?