Many consumers take electricity largely for granted and see it as little more than a cost that must be paid. But IntelligentUtility reports that several recent developments in the electricity industry have pushed utility companies toward an issue with which they are generally unfamiliar – consumer engagement.

Because of electricity deregulation, for the first time customers have begun to have choices in the services they use for electricity. The wires they use remain the same and those will continue to function on a somewhat familiar model.

But the more that consumers can choose between electricity providers, the more this will give electricity companies incentives to innovate in terms of rates, consumption and interfaces.

This comes at an interesting time for consumers, as technologies like the iPad and iPhone have made user-friendly touch-screens an effective way of connecting previously arcane industries to their customers. As technologies like smart meters grow more common, companies will need to begin finding ways to actively engage their customers in ways beyond simply providing access to bills and usage data on an iPad, giving them more control and more responsibility for their electricity bills. reports that Texas-based Reliant Energy has already begun to take steps in this direction, with the broader distribution of its e-Sense Home Energy Monitor.