The hottest sector in the technology market over the next decade will be products that make reducing power bills and conserving energy as easy as managing cell phone minutes, a report released by the Galvin Electricity Initiative found.

Joining the trend of products making homes and workplaces smarter and more automated than ever before, these emerging energy devices will help consumers identify when they are using electricity and what electricity they are paying for, according to the report The Path to Perfect Power: New Technologies Advance Consumer Control.

Currently, few consumers know the real cost of electricity, which fluctuates constantly. In today's system, most users pay a bill that amounts to an average of the cost of the power they use over a set period of time.

"When provided an opportunity to manage their electricity and other energy loads more efficiently, customers will rise to the opportunity," said Kurt Yeager, executive director of the Galvin Electricity Initiative. "Our research shows that consumers want to use electricity more wisely, both for their own benefit and in recognition of good citizenship and stewardship of the environment."

According to the report, the widespread integration of these convenient energy management systems in homes and businesses will reduce energy demand, use the electrical grid more efficiently and create less stress on the environment. If only 40 percent of residential customers begin managing their energy load using these kinds of devices, a major reduction in electricity demand will occur. These technologies work in the background so customers don't have to actively manage them.

With these new tools, such as a Web portal that allows users to monitor fluctuating energy costs and run appliances accordingly, consumers will be able to choose to use less electricity. These energy control devices also offer users ability to pay less for what they do use through a "demand- response," approach, an emerging trend in which customers reduce power use during more expensive peak periods. "Consumers have been taking advantage of peak/off-peak pricing in the telecommunications and transportation sectors for years," Yeager said. "It's time for the electric power system to allow customers the same efficiencies."

By the end of the decade, this report projects that these home automation and building intelligence technologies will become common offerings from local home improvement retailers like Lowe's and Best Buy, home and commercial contractors, telephone companies and energy retailers. Some of these products are already on the shelves.