Imagine living in a town where every restaurant serves only beans – and just one kind. You’re charged strictly based on the amount of beans you eat. No dessert, no ‘substitutes,’ no coupons, no special sauce, no doggie bag, no nothing.

Just the beans, ma’am.

Now think of energy services. Until now, these essential services have been much like a one-kind-of-beans-only restaurant town. Nothing was offered beyond the commodity, power or gas. [pullquote]

It's not a place you’d choose to live, if you had an opportunity to choose various products instead that would give you the information and tools to lower your energy consumption and ultimately the money you are spending on your energy bill.

The good news is many American households and businesses do have a choice with growing and diverse options. Soon there will be a full menu of not only service plans and pricing, but also combinations of products and services using the latest technologies that add value, convenience, and flexibility to your life.

Our energy needs have grown, becoming more complex and advancing with technology. We’re not just powering a handful of outlets and appliances anymore – not to mention that many of us are looking for options in the type of energy we use -- we're managing everything from Bluetooth toasters to Smartphones to Smart thermostats. Our busy lives require flexibility.

It’s taken a while, but energy finally is following the path of so many other industries (think wireless phones, banking, music, retail) and evolving to serve individual customers with unique needs, habits, and priorities. New technology is driving this change, and the U.S. is on the forefront.

People and businesses can soon use energy in more innovative ways that align with what matters to them. For some, a lower bill is important. For others, it’s greater convenience. For example, the ability to warm up your house remotely using a Smartphone app as you pay for dinner at a restaurant. And for others, it’s becoming greener.

How is this happening?

Consider these recent additions to the energy services menu around the country:

  • Time shifting: Planning and adjusting when you use energy can result in significant savings from some service providers.
  • Smart technology: There are all sorts of smart technologies available for energy customers. The Nest learning thermostat in particular, is a major breakthrough in smart, mobile app-enabled energy management. The device learns your habits and automatically adjusts temperature settings.
  • Renewables – Solar and wind power are adding options for Americans to help them reduce their carbon footprint.

In addition, some companies are bundling energy with related services, and offering steep discounts for heating and air conditioning repair, water heater leasing, or home protection plans.

For businesses, innovative sensor-, cloud- and software-based solutions can provide data-based insights into energy savings (down to the individual circuit), along with automated, real time energy management tools.

All of this is being done to empower consumers to change the way they think about and use energy -- in smarter ways that can reduce their use and provide more convenience, comfort and control in their homes and businesses. It’s like using a smart phone after having a rotary phone.

It’s early in the energy service revolution. There aren’t as many electricity choices as restaurants…yet.

But the surface has been more than scratched. The days of ‘set it and forget it’ are ending. An exciting era of constant value-adding innovation is here. The future of energy service is all about what matters to you.

Badar Khan is the Chief Executive Officer of Direct Energy.