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Utility Companies Propose Energy Tracking Plans

Massachusetts utility companies are filing proposals this week for "smart grid" pilot programs that would let customers keep track of their electricity use and increase efficiency.

The programs are required under legislation signed last year by Governor Deval Patrick and must be approved by the state.

National Grid is proposing the largest program, which will allow customers to receive electric usage updates by text message, online or with new readers installed in their homes.

Marcy Reed with national grid says frequent updates will be more useful than monthly bill summaries.

"Instead of learning about what you used in the month of March sometime in late April, you learn about it everyday and as the day goes on," Reed says. "It's about time for the utility industry to go out of the dinosaur age to advance finally into the 21st Century."

National Grid's program would cost customers less than a dollar a month, and participants are expected to save about $70 a year on energy bills.

Another plan, by NSTAR, gathers energy consumption information every fifteen seconds and then it is made available to customers online.

"We're looking to take energy information to the next level, to give customers the information they need to make an informed decision and to give it to them in real-time," says NSTAR spokesman Mike Durand. "Knowledge is power, and in this case we are hoping that knowledge of their power use will help customers decide when and how to cut back."

Unitil Corp. and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. will also file proposals.

If approved, the programs could begin as early as next year.

This program aired on March 31, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.

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