Automated control of consumer electricity loads, or active demand (AD) management, is a key component of many smart grid futures. Within the sociology of expectations, expectations define the future role and responsibilities of actors with respect to a new technology and in so doing set a trajectory for design and development. This paper explores the expectations of the behaviour of end users, envisaged by the designers and engineers of an AD project. Three main themes emerge. The first theme is that designers situate the new technology in an electricity consumption ideal, where households harmonise daily routines to service electricity retail markets. In the second theme, AD is aligned to new technological landscapes and enhanced through digital innovations. These visions are crucial for achieving the third theme, namely economically rational consumers. For widespread adoption of AD, however, the technology needs to be designed for real, as opposed to ideal users.