Energy Companies Compare Customers

In the next phase of the reports, SMUD will allow customers to go online and input information about the kind of heating source in their homes, their families and their power usage. The utility will then be able to offer more directed energy-saving tips.

SMUD is one of 10 utilities across the country that is trying to cut power use through peer pressure. Positive Energy, the software company that produced the report cards, said in addition to SMUD it's contracting with Puget Sound Energy in Washington state; Seattle City light; Southern California Edison; The Gas Company, which is the gas provider for all of southern California; Commonwealth Edison in Illinois and four smaller utilities in Minnesota -- the towns of Owatonna and Austin, and Connexus and Wake Country Power.

"This is providing people with a better context for understanding their energy consumption," said Alex Laskey, president of Positive Energy.

And it also apparently is a financial win for consumers.

"For every dollar the companies invest, the average customer saves about four bucks," said Laskey. "Utilities have to meet the demand of their customers either by building more plants or by helping to reduce demand. From a purely financial standpoint, this is a cheap, clean source of power."

SMUD's Crawford agreed.

"Wherever we can come up with an energy efficiency program, where the cost is less to save than it is to buy or produce, than that's our preference," Crawford said.

After her energy audit, Tamara Kaesner is now saving more than $150 a month.

The Dyers also cut their energy use, and now it's often below their neighbors.

"The real reward for me is that I have a lower power bill," said Greg Dyer.

Turns out, keeping up with the Joneses isn't so hard after all.

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