The utilities did not stop growing because the need for energy based services (light, air conditioning, refrigeration, etc.) declined. That grew. The retail side of utilities are in trouble today not because that need was filled by others (competitive retailers, energy services companies, energy management companies, solar panel vendors, demand side energy efficiency suppliers, demand response companies, battery manufacturers) but because they could not be filled by the utilities themselves. They let others take customers away from them because they assumed themselves to be in the utility business rather than the energy based services business. The reason they defined their industry incorrectly was that they were utility oriented instead of services oriented; they were product oriented instead of customer oriented...The above is an excerpt of the August 2010 EWPC article Answering “What Energy Business Are You In?” As the Way Out of The Third Depression. This is a follow up of the insightful dialogue I had with Gerrit Gentier in the Smart Grid Network Group of Linkedin, where he suggested that “Steve Jobs would develop "iHEMS", the beautifully styled Apple Home Energy Management System,” and went on to describe the device. However, he ended with “Sadly, he isn't around to tell Apple and make it happen, so the world will have to make do with second rate products in this area.”
My response was “… It seems that your proposal is very close to what Steve did to surprise customer with products they then love. Why are you so sure that the new Steve Job is no already around?
He started saying “Well, José, the fact that 52 million smart meters will be rolled out in the U.S. end 2012, and no such product is available yet, gives me the impression that innovative thinking around this subject matter isn't going too well in Silicon Valley or elsewhere…”
To that part of his response, I replied with “… To open the power industry to innovative thinking we need good regulation which is simple. To understand why we have bad regulation, which is complicated, Visa founder and lead architect, Dee Hock, said "In my view the greatest evil in the world today is ever-increasing power and wealth in ever-fewer hands."
It is important to place into perspective that almost a week went by before Gerrit wrote back. Needless to say, I am glad of his come back. In the interim, other discussions were in progress. His new response came right after the Update: Many Comments on What Would Steve Jobs Do About Energy Innovation? had been posted, so he had the benefit of a better feedback.
The essence of Gerrit latest response was “Jobs' game changing usually meant finding a new concept but also offering it in a tight, end to end controlled (by Apple) environment. In most energy market situations, that end to end option is impossible because of regulations… Chances are that Jobs', after analyzing the energy market, would turn his focus elsewhere, because he believed in focusing on only a few strong options instead of looking into everything.”
In accordance with the utilities myopia theme of this article, I responded:
Very good analysis Gerrit, but that is not how I see good regulation emerging. I see in your analysis an excessive dependence in regulation on end-to-end solutions of the whole power industry. I guess that the innovation space is very restricted as it involves bad regulation. I see early obsolescence play out when the new Steve Jobs is able to make an unexpected proposal that customer love under true good regulation.
Using the language of the German Network Agency, smart grid and smart markets are separated, just as the EWPC-AF has being suggesting for quite some time. Updating the idea in my 2005 EnergyPulse.net article An Alternative Business Case for Demand Response, where I introduced a different value chain, to the EWPC-AF Enterprise (Smart markets) side, there is not interference by the T&D Grid (Smart Grid) side. Different to the Netherlands and utilities in the US, in this alternative value chain the smart meter is on the Enterprise side.