Can utilities survive the winds of change buffeting their world?
The U.S. electric utility industry is experiencing dramatic changes in technology, marketing and energy policy that are altering the business in ways unseen since the time of Thomas Edison. Technological advances and tax credits are spurring investment in renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Politics and policy—along with historically low natural gas prices—are moving the industry away from coal, its traditional fuel of choice since at least the 1950s. While the power companies are diversifying their fuels, they are under siege from new competitors, potential cyberattacks on the grid and flat electricity growth. New firms with roots in Silicon Valley are marketing home-based solar systems that could cut the utilities out of the residential market. Among the questions under debate: Will traditional utilities continue to dominate the industry? To make energy efficiency and conservation pay, must utilities charge consumers differently? Is expansion of renewable energy the industry’s best new business model?
Borlase, Stuart, “Smart Grids – Infrastructure, Technology, and Solutions,” CRC Press, 2012. Written by a business development professional who has worked for GE and Siemens, this book offers perspectives on what a smart grid is and where the technology is going. It features a number of experts discussing smart grid technology.
Hirsh, Richard F., “Power Loss: The Origins of Deregulation and Restructuring in the American Electric Utility System,” MIT Press, 1999. An associate professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University explores the origins of deregulation and restructuring in the U.S. electric utility industry.
Hirsh, Richard F., “Technology and Transformation in the American Electric Utility Industry,” Cambridge University Press, 1989. The author provides a thorough history of the U.S. electric utility industry from the days of the holding companies through the 1980s.
Lambert, Jeremiah D., “The Power Brokers: The Struggle to Shape and Control the Electric Power Industry,” MIT Press, 2015. An author and attorney details the struggle to shape and control the electric utility industry in the United States.
Finn, Bernard S., “Origin of Electrical Power” in “Powering the Past: A Look Back,” Smithsonian Institution, 2002, http://tinyurl.com/
King, Gilbert, “The Rise and Fall of Nikola Tesla and His Tower,” Smithsonian.com, Feb. 4, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Lowenstein, Roger, “Before There Was Enron There Was Insull,” The New York Times, March 19, 2006, http://tinyurl.com/
McKibben, Bill, “Power to the People,” The New Yorker, June 29, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Mooney, Chris, “Why clean energy is now expanding even when fossil fuels are cheap,” The Washington Post, Jan. 14, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Rather, Jon, “Planning the Fate of a Nuclear Plant’s Land,” The New York Times, Jan. 1, 2009, http://tinyurl.com/
Trabish, Herman K., “Partnering for success: Utilities leverage innovative vendor relationships at the grid edge,” Utility Dive, Feb. 23, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Walsh, George M., “Driven by power outages and savings, towns look to microgrid,” The Associated Press, Feb. 7, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Warrick, Joby, “Utilities wage campaign against rooftop solar,” The Washington Post, March 7, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Reports and Studies
“Business Blackout,” Cambridge Centre for Risk Studies, May 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Kind, Peter, “Disruptive Challenges: Financial Implications and Strategic Response to a Changing Retail Electric Business,” Edison Electric Institute, January 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Sweeny, James L., “The California Electricity Crisis: Lessons for the Future,” National Academy of Engineering, Summer 2002, http://tinyurl.com/
The Next Step
Downing, Bob, “FirstEnergy reiterates its reliance on coal alongside green initiatives at annual meeting,” Ohio.com, May 16, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Nikolewski, Rob, “California’s Coal Collapse,” San Diego Union-Tribune, May 5, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Sweet, Cassandra, “U.S. Utilities Boost Investments in Wind, Solar Power,” The Wall Street Journal, May 9, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Effects of Solar
Roth, Sammy, “No relief for east valley as Assembly kills solar bill,” The Desert Sun (Palm Springs, Calif.), May 27, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Vitter, Scott, and Thomas Deechen, “How to Overcome the Greatest Barriers to Rooftop Solar Power,” Scientific American, June 8, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Worland, Justin, “Your Utility Company Wants to Sell You More Than Just Electricity,” Time, June 3, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Levit, Donald, “Natural Gas Prices Soar to Five-Month High,” EconomicCalendar.com, June 6, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Maykuth, Andrew, “N.J. utilities give customers a shale-gas windfall,” Philly.com, June 2, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Walton, Robert, “EIA: Constructing a natural gas plant is cheaper than other options,” Utility Dive, June 7, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Bo Williams, Katie, “DHS Cyber Reorganization Bill Advances in House,” The Hill, June 8, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
Eber, Kevin, “NREL’s New Initiative to Prevent Hackers on the Grid,” T&D World Magazine, June 8, 2016, http://tinyurl.com/
American Public Power Association
2451 Crystal Drive, Suite 1000, Arlington, VA 22202
Organization representing more than 2,000 community-owned electric utility companies.
Edison Electric Institute
701 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington. DC 20004
Industry group representing all U.S. investor-owned electric companies. Provides public policy leadership, strategic business intelligence, organizes and hosts conferences and forums.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
888 1st St., N.E., Washington, DC 20426
Independent federal agency that regulates the interstate transmission of electricity, natural gas and oil. Mission includes “assisting consumers in obtaining reliable, efficient and sustainable energy services at a reasonable cost through appropriate regulatory and market means.”
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
4302 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22203
The national service organization for more than 900 nonprofit rural electric cooperatives and public power districts in the United States.
North American Electric Reliability Corp.
3353 Peachtree Road, N.E., Suite 600, North Tower, Atlanta, GA 30326
Nonprofit organization whose mission is to assure the reliability of the bulk power system in North America. Its area of responsibility spans the continental United States, Canada and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico.
Solar Energy Industries Association
600 14th St., N.W., #400, Washington, DC 20005
The U.S. trade association for solar energy and related businesses, focused on expanding domestic and international markets and advocating for the expansion of solar power.
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, DC 20585
Federal agency in charge of researching, establishing and implementing U.S. energy policy.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 2004
Federal agency charged with protecting human health and the environment.