The "smart grid" is a catch-all term to describe a next-generation power distribution system, with two-way communication, on demand features, and much, much more intelligence than the "dumb" system we currently employ. And everyone's getting into it, even Google, which announced it's PowerMeter entry into the smart grid market back in February.  The application, which lives as a secure widget on iGoogle, communicates with smart meters--40 million of which are deployed worldwide at the moment. and that number is expected to jump by 100 million in the next few years. Google PowerMeter will show consumers their electricity consumption in near real-time, and should offer "more useful and actionable feedback than complicated monthly paper bills that provide little detail on consumption or how to save energy."

And guess what? It's finally available! GoodCleanTech reports that Ted 5000, a PDA-like gizmo from Energy Inc., goes on sale today. The website reports that "it will include the Google PowerMeter software tool, which will provide personal home energy data from anywhere you can access the Internet, including the iGoogle for mobile phones. With the TED 5000, users will no longer have to have a smart meter installed by your utility in order to access PowerMeter. For those who already have a TED device (short for "the energy detective"), a free firmware upgrade will enable the PowerMeter functionality."

Good news indeed! Smart grid technology is clearly a boon both to consumers--who doesn't want to schedule appliances to run when power is cheaper?--and our aging, overtaxed power grid. You can read more about the Ted 5000 and Google's PowerMeter at GoodCleanTech.com.

Jeremy A. Kaplan is Science and Technology editor at FoxNews.com, where he heads up coverage of gadgets, the online world, space travel, nature, the environment, and more. Prior to joining Fox, he was executive editor of PC Magazine, co-host of the Fastest Geek competition, and a founding editor of GoodCleanTech.