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The Transformation Myth

Telecom-style revolution is beyond our reach.

Fortnightly Magazine - June 2011

and services that don’t exist today (see “ Top 10 EV Challenges .”). By any definition, that’s creating value.

Now, playing devil’s advocate, I might argue that EVs themselves don’t create new value, because they don’t let their owners do anything they couldn’t do with gas-powered cars. Thus the telecom analogy breaks down yet again; EVs aren’t the equivalent of the smart phone. However, I don’t think this distinction matters. Shifting value from the petroleum economy into the electricity economy still leads to growth and transformation in our industry, just as if it were an entirely new service.

The really operative question, then, is who will create this value and thereby achieve Google-scale growth? Will it be an energy company like NRG Energy, which launched an EV charging network called “eVgo” last November and has already installed dozens of charging stations in Dallas and Houston? Will it be an upstart like Better Place, which is working with auto makers and governments to roll out comprehensive charging and battery-swap infrastructure in places like Israel and Denmark? Or will it be some currently unknown software developer, working in a basement, who creates a wireless app that delivers the entire smart charging service (and handles billions of dollars in energy transactions) via any outlet or charging station?

Importantly, none of these examples depends on either a regulated utility franchise or a deregulated utility market. Yet their models all imply some degree of transformation in the way electricity is bought and delivered—and huge opportunities for the innovators who drive that transformation forward.