Plenary: Are American Utilities Now in a Death Spiral?

Jim Kelly, Former Senior VP, Southern California Edison
Michael Peevey, President, California Public Utilities Commission
Peter Rive, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, SolarCity
Susan Bitter Smith, Commissioner, Arizona Corporation Commission
Jim Avery, Senior Vice President of Power Supply, San Diego Gas and Electric

Every week, another story comes out asserting that traditional electric utilities are now in a “death spiral.” The reasoning is usually that the net cost of solar photovoltaic keeps coming down because of economies of scale, technological advances, and various subsidies—and many consumers can now reduce their energy bills by installing panels. This could leave utilities facing flat or declining consumption, forcing large and growing fixed costs to be spread over fewer units, which would drive the price of utility electricity still higher and make more solar cost-effective. Now, small-scale, natural-gas-based distributed generation is being touted as perhaps “even better than solar.” Are the traditional electric utilities doomed?


Are American Utilities in a Death Spiral