It boils down to the notion that you "can't manage what you can't see."
Someone had a story in the last couple of weeks about the town of Brighton in the UK. It's adopted smart meters which give real-time feedback on energy usage in the house. A nice console on the wall--Echelon in San Jose makes them and cities around the world are buying them in bulk. Kind of like the real-time mpg feedback our Priuses offer on the dash.
Didn't realize that the computers soak up so much energy? The meter will tell you. Maybe we can delay that load of wash until the evening? The meter might suggest it.
Then the Sunday Times ran a story in the business section. And coincidentally DC's utility started a demo last week.
PG&E started a different effort in Bakersfield a couple of years ago, and is scheduled to make its udpated exterior meters available here in Oakland beginning January '09. They'll gather better data, and you'll be able to track usage more effectively on the internet. See the PG&E brochure here.
But there's nothing like having a snazzy-looking meter reader in your kitchen to make you change behavior. When's that arriving in the eco-friendly Bay Area, you PG&E higher-up readers?