According to the Associate Press, more power companies are testing new pricing plans based on rates that are higher when demand for electricity is high.

PPL Corp. has launched a pilot program that involves installing smart power meters, which can track the amount of electricity flowing into a home in real time. The program enables PPL customers to lower their bills by running the dishwasher later at night and switching to compact fluorescent bulbs. Customers are alerted to changes in price through emails or cell phone messages. "Critical peak" rates are triggered only on the highest demand days of the year, while "time of use" rates indicate a fixed period of higher rates between noon and 7 p.m. on weekdays.

Last summer, participants saw savings of as much as 6 percent per month as a result of adjusting their homes' electrical consumption. Eventually, as more customers alter their consumption practices, energy companies expect fewer blackouts to occur. Ultimately, such programs will allow power companies to build fewer power plants and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.