South Dakota-based NorthWestern Energy announced at the start of October that it plans to delay the deadline for its upcoming smart grid program as it recruits more applicants.

Smart Grid Demonstration Project is a program making use of funding from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act from 2009. The project hopes to demonstrate the potential for more efficient distribution of electricity through the use of smart meters that allow both utilities and customers to more actively monitor energy use. TMCnet reports that NorthWestern plans to make use of a cloud-based program provided by Tendril to allow customers to monitor their usage.

Unlike many applications of smart grid technology, NorthWestern's trial spans five states across the northwestern region of the country. However, the utility company has yet to receive sufficient interest from customers in some regions, particularly Helena, Montana. Customers in the region were sent post cards notifying them of the extension through October 11, and could receive calls about the program.

Smart grids offer interesting possibilities for areas where customers can choose electricity providers, allowing for more variable electricity rates and greater response to demand.