Most of today’s investor-owned electric utilities retain their century-old monopoly, but insufficient regulation has often left the public good by the wayside. Instead, investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs) have kept a laser focus on shareholders’ returns. They have built large, unnecessary fossil-fueled power plants when more energy-efficient approaches would cut consumers’ costs. They try to change electric rates in ways that harm the poor and elderly, then use public funds to help the indigent pay their bills. They spurn rooftop solar and customer-owned power generation.
In some sense, this behavior is no surprise. The regulatory scheme Insull imagined shaped two key profit motives for utility companies: selling more power and building more infrastructure. But neither makes sense any longer. Electricity demand has leveled off, and distributed, non-utility power generation is often less expensive than relying on utility shareholder capital.
Adding insult to the injury of the public good, investor-owned utilities frequently lobby against legislation in the public interest, from renewable energy to energy efficiency standards to community solar programs. They use their publicly-granted monopoly profits to oppose the public interest.
Thanks. God bless.