In 2011, Northwestern Energy placed new 'smart meters' in over 200 Helena homes to see how consumers would respond to the new technology.

Northwestern Energy spokesman Butch Larkum says the meters not only show how much energy is being utilized, but the actual cost of the energy, as well. Larkum explains that electricity prices vary throughout the day and night, so using the dishwasher or washing clothes in peak demand times can cost the consumer more money, while doing the same chores in low-use hours, like the middle of the night, can save money.

Larkum says consumers are beginning to adapt their electricity usage to save money on their energy bills.

Larkum also says the new 'smart grid' is also being designed. The 'smart grid' will be able to move electricity quickly and efficiently from one zone to another where demand is highest. He says the costs associated with upgrading the electrical grid will be mostly borne by those areas who use the highest amounts of electricity. Larkum says Montana continues to be a net exporter of energy, in that Montana sells or sends out more energy than it uses.

Northwestern Energy's Butch Larkum