ARGUABLY, the electric utility industry’s greatest revolution occurred more than 100 years ago: central station generation, followed by the relatively concurrent development of the demand meter, the concept of the utility’s natural monopoly, and regulation by state commissions.
Those are still the basic building blocks. But today, electric companies are building a smart grid with (among other things) two-way communication, allowing customers to use electricity in new ways and have more control of it. Against the backdrop of a robust central-station generation system, distributed generation (DG) technologies are gaining in efficiency and use. Moreover, as utilities invest in the larger system and electricity prices therefore rise, the gap between the electric bill and, say, the solar panel investment becomes smaller.