Thomas Edison essentially launched the modern electric utility industry when the Pearl Street Station in Manhattan began generating electricity on Sept. 4, 1882. It was the world’s first central power plant, designed and built by the Edison Illuminating Company after the success of the Edison bulb created a demand for a source of power.
Almost a century-and-a-half later, Elon Musk is changing the energy game. The CEO of Tesla, Musk is a modern-day energy innovator and on a mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. Perhaps best known for launching a new generation of electric vehicles, Tesla is now advancing technologies that will decrease dependence on the central utility grid. The Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that integrates with a home solar array to store unused energy. It’s not an inexpensive proposition, but another option putting power into the hands of interested consumers.
The electric utility industry as I’ve known it during my 40-year career is in the midst of a major transition. Historically, the movement of electricity through the grid was in one direction, from the centralized generator through transmission and distribution systems to the customer. Distributed generation is changing the game as consumers can now install their own generation, like a solar array, and interconnect with the utility. These options give consumers new levels of energy control and convenience, and decrease dependence on the complex transmission and distribution systems that comprise today’s bulk power grid.
Notice I said decrease consumer dependence, not eliminate.
At Midwest we embrace these advancing technologies, and are investing in applications on our distribution system to help you to maximize your control and experience. But the distribution system remains a key part of that experience, particularly when your source of generation does not produce enough electricity to power your needs.
This is another reason your board of directors is taking steps to restructure rates. You may choose to invest in distributed generation as a primary source of power for your home, but the fixed costs of making the distribution system available to you as needed don’t go away. Every member should pay a fair and appropriate share to have access to electricity, regardless of how much or how little they use.
This is a transformational time for our industry. I believe Edison would applaud Musk’s efforts to advance energy technology, and we embrace it as well.