The possible future of energy supply

Doom and gloom for the electric company

I just read an article that I would like to share with you, current and future electric vehicle operators.  It talks about the possibility of a gloomy future for electric utilities.  What would cause a utility company to worry?  Customers who don’t depend on them anymore.  Why would customers like us, who need to charge huge car and motorcycle batteries from our wall sockets and public charging stations, reduce our reliance on the company that supplies us that electricity?  For that matter, don’t they have a monopoly?

I won’t go into the details that the article explains, but the gist of it is

  1. Electric companies are state-supported monopolies.  There is no other electric company who is allowed to offer the same consumers a competitive price.
  2. Home energy production is becoming more affordable.  Consumers become the competition of the monopolies.
  3. Consumers who make their own electricity need to buy less from the monopolies.  This threatens the monopolies’ income.
  4. The monopolies must raise prices to compensate for falling revenue.  They have to pay for their long-term investments in power-generating infrastructure.
  5. Raising prices will drive consumers away.  The monopolies have to raise prices again for their remaining customers.

Here’s the article, http://grist.org/climate-energy/solar-panels-could-destroy-u-s-utilities-according-to-u-s-utilities.

Doom and gloom for consumers

Should this concern electric vehicle owners (and prospective owners)?  The electric companies will no doubt do all they can to remain in business, but what will that mean?  It’s not like everyone will buy solar panels and cause the electric companies to go out of business overnight, so the power companies still have time to figure out what their strategy will be.  However, if they don’t have a plan, and they can’t act fast enough to keep their paying customers, will electricity utilities become the next Too Big To Fail companies?  What will it mean for consumers if these utilities go bankrupt?  If big banks go under today, your life savings are lost, so your future looks bad.  If utility companies go under, how bad will things get right now?

Imagine a day without electricity.  Even if you had the foresight to invest in solar power (for example) for your home, what about all of the things outside of your home that electricity powers?  Will you be able to get to work safely if none of the traffic lights are lit?  Even if you got to work on time, what work could you get done with your office or factory machinery without power?  How will you make your next cup of coffee?  What will your children eat and drink for lunch at school—how healthy is a glass of milk when the fridge it’s stored in can’t keep it cold enough to keep it from spoiling?

Where’s the silver lining?

The assumption above is that if an electric company goes under, businesses and civil infrastructure will immediately stop working, even if individual consumers have all of the self-generated electricity they need.  Developments in the technology of electricity generation like this bladeless wind-power generator imply that generating power could be more decentralized, allowing not only home consumers to produce their own electricity, but individual businesses, too.

So the collapse of civilization is probably not just around the corner, but there is a need to be mindful of the infrastructure that we all rely on.  Just because we feel good about using electric vehicles to reduce pollution, or thinking that we’re doing our part to reduce the need for fossil-fuel burning power plants by installing solar panels, it doesn’t mean that there are no ill side effects.

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