Untangling the Power Cords

August 31, 2018  • Michael Leifman

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The US electricity sector is in the midst of several transformations.  These transformations are intertwined, with policy innovation and technological innovation reinforcing each other. Some transformations are coincident and proceeding rapidly, such as the decreasing importance of coal in the overall fuel mix and the increasing importance of natural gas and renewables, while other transformations are happening independently and at different speeds, such as the diffusion of electric vehicles and the financial woes of the nuclear industry. Though the US power system’s regulatory structure has always been fragmented, the current plethora of state initiatives has further complicated the landscape. These transformations and complexities are so wide-ranging that it has become difficult for non-experts to grasp their full breadth, let alone their depth and nuance. An observer might see a web of tangled cords, each running into each other.

This multi-part series is to provide a common understanding of, and common language for, the most important transformations currently underway in US electricity markets, and to distill them to their essence. We hope to untangle the multiple “power cords” and enable a clearer conversation about where our power system is headed. View or download Part 1 of the series here.