Making electricity, in other words, is becoming a less profitable business. And Garg worries that these costs will eventually reach consumers and send ripples throughout the economy. “You don’t need a huge amount of people to leave to cause a huge issue with the grid,” he says.
Unlike in the phone industry, an enervated electric grid can hurt just about everybody. Even most folks with solar panels on their roof still need that baseload power when the clouds block the sun long enough for the fridge to suck their Powerwall dry, or wires onto which they can shunt their excess power whenever the panels are generating more juice than any home can use.
…“The regulatory structure basically paid utilities to build power plants, and charge customers for the cost of those plants through bills, but didn’t provide much incentive for the utilities to be efficient,” says Seth Blumsack, who studies energy policy at Pennsylvania State University. So long as you didn’t have any competitors eyeing your market share, why innovate or look for cheaper fuel sources?
…Another tack would be changing the way the industry is regulated, all over again. Even with restructuring and deregulation, government policy still rewards big capital expenditures like new power plants or miles of transmission line. Regulations could easily be written that reward companies that make the existing grid operate more efficiently. However, the current administration hasn’t really caught up to what the market is saying.