News and analysis about renewable energy in California.

Energy Exec: Customers 'Realizing They Don't Need Utilities'

NRG CEO David Crane in 2012 | Photo: Fortune Live MEdia/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The CEO of a company that makes its money selling electrical power to utilities has called those utilities unnecessary. According to a report by Bloomberg, David Crane -- chief executive officer at NRG Energy -- essentially wrote the epitaph for the Investor Owned Utility as currently known. NRG is planning to start selling solar panels and backup generators to individual property owners, sidestepping what the firm apparently feels are the moribund utility company middlemen.

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"Consumers are realising they don't need the power industry at all," Crane, said in an interview at the MIT Energy Conference in Massachusetts earlier this month that was reported by Bloomberg this week. "That is ultimately where big parts of the country will go."

"The individual homeowner should be able to tie a machine to their natural gas line and tie that with solar on the roof, and suddenly they can say to the transmission-distribution company, 'Disconnect that line,'" Crane continued.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Crane also predicted that utilities will attempt to recoup losses by increasing costs to remaining customers, making distributed solar that much more appealing for those who haven't yet made the jump. "Distributed solar is a mortal threat to their business," Crane told the Journal at a Santa Barbara energy workshop last week.

None of this will be news to ReWire readers; we've reported on the seeming inevitability of utility company obsolescence for some time now. And remarks about the future belonging to solar are nothing new for Crane. But it's interesting to see the head of a major power plant manufacturer jump speak so glibly of the demise of an entire sector. When we look back at 2013 20 years from now, this might just turn out in retrospect to be one of the biggest stories of the year.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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