Public trust has always been the Achilles’ heel of Big Energy. Petroleum companies and utilities have been fortresses, with many communicating with the public strictly when absolutely necessary. (And sometimes not very respectfully.) The attitude has long been: This is all very complicated so you’ll just have to trust us.
Of course that approach never worked. And though public trust eroded with each oil spill and chemical explosion, Americans needed petroleum-based fuel. People couldn’t very well vote with their pocketbooks when they still had to fill their tanks and drive to work.
Trust in electric companies also eroded with every power outage and surprisingly high electricity bill, and with every confusing ad about new retailers and new contracts. At this point, it hardly matters if the next power outage is due to some complicated technical issue that nobody can explain or a simple tree limb falling on a wire. It hardly matters if the next surprise bill is because of a wholesale market glitch that inexplicably rains down riches on certain corporations and causes others to go bankrupt, or because somebody left the AC on 65 before walking out the door for vacation. People feel they have little control over their electricity, that they are at the mercy of Big Power or Big Grid or Big Who-knows-what.
Now, people are talking about personal generators, batteries, electric vehicles charged with home solar arrays. Microgrids, even. That is, a grid that connects only a neighborhood or a corporate campus to its own generator, which can unhook from the ERCOT grid in an emergency and keep the lights on.
Read more: The Dallas Morning News