Youtility: The Era of Personal Power

Over the last few months I've written posts about the future utility and smart cities with a perspective that our current utility will play a key role in what this future utility will look like. My thinking has been that, due to our reliance on the heavy infrastructure base of the current utility, you and I will be tied to the wires and lines that we currently have.

But I've been wrong all along.

We are about to enter the era of the Youtility, the era of Personal Power where we have little to no reliance on the current utility for generation, transmission or supply of the energy we use to power our homes.

The fascinating thing is that in African countries, including the one where I was born, either through lack of infrastructure or depreciated assets this is already the case. See my father (and a lot of his peers) currently serve as their own Youtility. Sometimes for weeks on end his home is cut off from the grid since the electric authority (as they are known in those parts) provides no power. Same is true for water and gas. Each home is essentially a republic' unto itself with a generator combined with solar energy for power, a borehole dug in the back of the compound for water and gas tanks swapped out at the gas station for cooking gas. He is his own utility...

You'd assume this is the case for only wealthy citizens in those parts but that is not the case. The entrepreneurially minded have figured out ways to bring the costs of these Youtility setups down to levels the masses can bear. Granted, the sources of fuel are not sustainable but, as is the case with most technologies, the original need has been served and now is the time to optimize and make it sustainable.

What makes you think this is impossible in the US? It won't be the first time we've borrowed technology from Africa. Mobile payments? mPesa was doing what we can now do with Paypal Venmo a good 8 years ago with dumb phones.

How does a person go broke? Slowly and then suddenly (paraphrasing Hemingway). How will the current utility die? From a thousand cuts in the form of solar powered homes, car charging roads, batteries in basements and even personal power plants i.e. slowly and then quickly...

What will happen to those heavy assets? those wires and lines? They will be owned by financial entities that have nothing to do with supplying you and I electricity and own these assets strictly for the rent-earning' opportunity they might provide.

And the rest of us? We'll just carry on being our own Youtility.

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