Houston-based Reliant Energy has finalized its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for approximately $20 million in funding to develop and deliver innovative energy solutions for Texas electricity customers. Reliant is the only competitive electricity provider in Texas to have been selected to receive a grant through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA).

"Reliant is committed to revolutionizing the way people interact with energy through technology by continually pushing to develop and deliver innovative energy solutions to improve the lives of our customers," says Jason Few, president, Reliant Energy. "This grant will help us get those services into the hands of more customers between now and 2013."

Reliant customers are already benefiting from the company's smart energy products and services. Customers with smart meters can now receive a free weekly summary e-mail that provides an overview of weekly and daily usage, an estimated monthly bill amount, and a comparison to the previous week's electricity use.

The company also has a time-of-use plan for customers with smart meters. Under this plan, the price of electricity changes during the day based on overall demand for electricity, allowing customers to benefit from making choices about when and how to use electricity. By shifting high-usage activities — like doing laundry or running the dishwasher — to lower-priced times, customers may be able to reduce their overall cost.

Other planned products and services include a Web portal that tracks electricity usage as well as costs and can be accessed remotely to monitor energy use while away from home; home energy monitors that communicate with the smart meter to display near real-time information including current electricity use, estimated bill, energy-saving tips and alerts when the bill reaches a certain point; and smart appliances.