The future of utilities - death spiral or reinvention? Leaders weigh in


Quick Take:  It was only a week ago I told you about five different plans to reinvent the utility industry. This week we have thoughtful contributions from two other industry observers. I hope you and your colleagues are reviewing these ideas and deciding which future you want for yourselves. - Jesse Berst


Writing in Public Utilities Fortnightly, editor-in-chief Michael Burr has given us a lengthy but helpful review of various options now on the table. "Different people see different things when they gaze into the metaphorical crystal ball," writes Burr. "Some see catastrophe, the so-called 'death spiral.' Others see a renaissance, a new age of innovation in energy services. Most everyone sees big changes ahead."


Burr delves into both possibilities. He explains the "death spiral" scenario that has many people worried. What would that catastrophe mean for the smart grid? Burr says that "even this view includes some important changes coming as new technologies mature - most notably grid modernization, distributed intelligence, fast communications, and real-time analytics." As he explains, smart grid technologies offer new ways to operate the system at lower cost - something that will be essential if the death spiral propagates.


An alternative to the death spiral

But it's equally possible our industry will evolve towards a "Utility 2.0" scenario. In that future, utilities integrate power from both central and distributed generation while offering all sorts of innovative energy services.


To gain more insight into these possible futures, Burr and his colleagues interviewed 11 industry leaders. I hope you can find time to read their insights.