NEW YORK (AP) - The advent of digital meters which allow real-time monitoring has begun to prompt some electric companies to take a page out of the mobile phone marketing book.
In a shake-up of rigid old one rate business models, electric companies have begun increasingly offering free nights, free weekends and pre-paid plans.
Forty-two percent of U.S. electric customers have digital meters, up from less than 5 percent in 2008. The percentage is rising.
Digital meters have enabled traditional utilities to reduce their costs by encouraging customers to use electricity during off-peak hours, when it is cheaper.
But there is a potential downside for customers. Some plans offer low introductory rates that can quickly skyrocket. Others have high early-termination fees. Some fixed-rate plans are a great deal if power prices rise, but not if they fall.
If customers are careful, though, they can pay less.