In the glory days of the electricity grid, utilities burned mainly fossil fuels at big, centrally located operations and transmitted the resulting power to businesses and consumers at highly regulated rates opaque to most users. Their main mission was reliability: keep the juice flowing, no matter what.
If one built the electrical grid today, one would reverse almost every aspect of that design. Solar and wind power generation is so affordable now that many consumers can be producers as well as consumers, one reason why investments in solar, wind, and storage comprised the majority of new money flowing into US energy infrastructure in 2016.Just as important, intelligent algorithms can now trade electricity to procure and deliver the cheapest power in real-time (such as this solar microgrid in Brooklyn).
As producers and consumers start to act like a network, the electrical system is beginning to resemble the internet. Silicon Valley is jumping at the opportunity by entering the highly-regulated energy market as lumbering incumbent utilities struggle to keep pace.
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