The Illinois state legislature made a big deal last year about plans to implement new smart grid technologies around the state, including smart meters on many homes and businesses.
Now The Associated Press reports that one of the state's two major utility companies, Ameren Illinois, has announced plans to add the first wave these new smart meters.
Ameren's plan would add 780,000 smart meters across its service area over the course of the next 10 years, hopefully meeting the legislature's requirement that 62 percent of the utility's customers have smart meters by 2022.
This new technology will offer a variety of potential benefits, from better information for utilities to faster notification of outages. But one of the most interesting possibilities for Illinois is that smart meters will give residents another measure on which to compare electricity providers.
Illinois implemented residential electricity deregulation years ago, but the state has only recently seen the number people using retail electricity providers rise.
As utilities implement smart meters, some electricity suppliers could distinguish themselves from their competition by offering plans with lower electricity rates at night or on weekends. Some electricity providers even have programs to automatically manage energy usage.