Thomas Edison

Writing 'The Power Brokers'

Jeremiah D. Lambert, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., has served PJM and other clients in the electric utility industry and has written extensively on energy-related topics.

In “The Power Brokers: The Struggle to Shape and Control the Electric Power Industry,” I sought to craft a narrative, telling the story of an essential bedrock business through the players who influenced its course.

Edison Under the Hood

Can utilities put EV batteries in the rate base?

Thomas Edison once hoped to make a fortune in the auto business—selling electric cars. Of course it never happened; he and Henry Ford tried and failed to bring a low-cost electric car to market. They scuttled the project after investing $1.5 million toward the effort—more than $32 million in today’s dollars. Edison’s nickel-iron batteries just couldn't match the performance of Ford’s petrol-powered bang-bang.

Technology Wins

Economics, not politicians, will determine what tools are best.

Today’s utility business model depends chiefly on big power plants and long transmission lines—and federal and state policies reinforce that model. But as photovoltaics technology advances and systems get ever cheaper, distributed generation eventually might become the more competitive option. At that point, upstart companies might be better positioned than utilities to capture a share of this growing market, because they won’t be constrained by Edison-era economics.

Navigating in the Age of Uncertainty

Business models are evolving to suit a shifting industry landscape.

The next decade will bring serious disruption to the utility industry. But with cooperation from regulators and legislators, utility companies will be able to shift their business models to capture significant value—both in existing businesses and emerging ones.

EVs and the Smart Grid

Better batteries, renewables and more intelligent electricity networks are converging to deliver efficiency and environmental improvements. Electric vehicle (EV) batteries are both the stumbling block and the catalyst for transformative change.

A century or so ago, Thomas Edison’s commercialization of electricity unleashed an unprecedented cascade of change, altering the way humanity worked, lived and interacted. Today, with the convergent rise of the smart grid, renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs), the power sector is embarking on a second era of transformation that promises to deliver a smarter, greener and more efficient 21st century.

Lighting Up the World

Why electricity is good—and more is better.

A century of electrification shows clearly that more electricity—and cheaper electricity—enhances public health, raises living standards and also improves the environment. Conversely, higher prices harm businesses and families, with a disproportionate impact on low-income households. Public welfare goals are best served by public policies that make electricity more accessible and affordable to the masses—not less.

CEOs on Change

Utilities adapt to a shifting landscape.

The U.S. utility landscape is more dynamic and uncertain than it’s been since Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse waged their infamous war over alternating current—and the results might be just as fundamental to the industry’s future.

Money to Burn

Smart-grid stimulus targets the wrong problem.

The $800 billion stimulus bill has spawned a feeding frenzy among would-be recipients of the money. Smart-grid technology companies, for example, are excited about the bill’s $4.5 billion in 50/50 matching grants to “modernize the electric grid.” However, not everybody is cheering.