Electricity is an enabler of necessities and luxuries Americans enjoy. Power keeps us in touch and in tune. Electric power reaches almost 100% of homes. In a real sense, the availability of power provides important independence.
This 4th of July, our 245th, Americans will celebrate not simply the independence of our country but a system that boosts entrepreneurism and innovation. Check the themes in these quotes.
- “I believe that without free enterprise there can be no democracy,” said Dwight Eisenhower.
- “I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well,” said John Kennedy.
- “A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see, and who will pursue their advantages, may achieve almost anything,” said George Washington.
And they did, too. From the first Edison light bulb in 1879 sprung a national electric grid proclaimed as the most significant invention of the 20th Century. Its “spin-offs,” to use a modern term, have been appliances, manufacturing equipment, broadcast communications, computing, iPhones, medical breakthroughs … success upon success.
The growth of the electric grid also forged a unique partnership between electric companies and state regulators. I believe we sometimes forget how unusual this synergy is, and how successful it is when it is handled well.
A shared focus – affordable, ample, secure electric power – is a mutual goal of industry innovators and public service regulators. It’s one of the many checks and balances in our system of government.
A budding theory of capitalism, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, hit the streets several months before American independence. Seems to be more than a coincidence, in retrospect. The development of each in tandem has been fortuitous. The “spirit of commerce” noted by Washington, and described by Smith, lit a flame of invention and ambition to drive our nation.
Today our electric system is undergoing an important and sometimes trying transformation in our capitalist society: Creative destruction, a regular part of free enterprise. New companies, innovations, and processes displace the old. Continuous improvement is the entry price for a company to exist. Some don’t make it. Others thrive and people benefit.
This transformation introduces something new. The future of our electric system will require more from citizens. Customers will have a bigger vote in how they use and pay for their power. They will have a greater obligation to understand an evolving electric system. Their votes – in dollars from products and services, and at the polls for those who make policy – will determine progress in our energy independence.