Smart Grids are the talk of the town. The per capita consumption of power in developed nations is higher than that of developing / under-developed nations. The developed nations have been working with the idea of Smart Grids for some time now.
The idea here is to have smart devices and smart tariffing that encourage consumers to adjust consumption as per the overall demand of the city/area. For example, the price is high during peak hours. Something like airlines, most of whom demand more money when you book for weekend. You book a red-eye flight, you get lower fare...sometimes even a bump up to business class :)
And it is not only about tariffs. It is about intelligent management of power. For example, schools and offices close after 5pm....then the substations and other devices used by them exculusively can be regulated or switched off as and when the grid "detects" a drop below a certain level.
Some cities like Austin have been experimenting with this idea for sometime. Check this link which describes how operational expenses and other savings were effected through smart grid.
For example, reading meters wirelessly, communicating consumer needs are some of the examples of this case of use of smart grid.
The case of India
Indian power sector is reeling in crisis. Outages, T&D losses and theft are some of the perpetual pain points for India. At the moment the T&D losses are somewhere around 35% of the overall generation. The associated loss to output is also a definite worry.
Smart grids can address some of these issues. Use of wireless devices connected to central management systems can revolutionize this sector.
For example to reduce theft it can point to problem areas, generate alarms and flags when the consumption goes beyond set patterns etc. Also, an increase in regular consumption can also flag off the need of new equipment and tariff plans.
The cost may be very high for countries like India but it should be considered in terms of direct losses mentioned above plus the opportunity cost in terms of lost business due to the above problems.