Selling Power: Economics, Policy, And Electric Utilities Before 1940

Hardcover | November 8, 2016

byJohn L. Neufeld

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We remember Thomas Edison as the inventor of the incandescent light bulb, but he deserves credit for something much larger, an even more singular invention that profoundly changed the way the world works: the modern electric utility industry. Edison’s light bulb was the first to work within a system where a utility generated electricity and distributed it to customers for lighting. The story of how electric utilities went within one generation from prototype to an indispensable part of most Americans’ lives is a story about the relationships between political and technological change.
           
John L. Neufeld offers a comprehensive historical treatment of the economics that shaped electric utilities. Compared with most industries, the organization of the electric utility industry is not—and cannot be—economically efficient. Most industries are kept by law in a state of fair competition, but the capital necessary to start an electric company—generators, transmission and distribution systems, and land and buildings—is so substantial that few companies can enter the market and compete. Therefore, the natural state of the electric utility industry since its inception has been a monopoly subject to government oversight. These characteristics of electric utilities—and electricity’s importance—have created over time sharp political controversies, and changing public policies have dramatically changed the industry’s structure to an extent matched by few other industries. Neufeld outlines the struggles that shaped the industry’s development, and shows how the experience of electric utilities provides insight into the design of economic institutions, including today’s new large-scale markets.
 

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We remember Thomas Edison as the inventor of the incandescent light bulb, but he deserves credit for something much larger, an even more singular invention that profoundly changed the way the world works: the modern electric utility industry. Edison’s light bulb was the first to work within a system where a utility generated electricit...

John L. Neufeld is professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He is the author of the Learning Business Statistics with Microsoft Excel series.

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:336 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.3 inPublished:November 8, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022639963X

ISBN - 13:9780226399638

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Acknowledgments
Introduction. The Economics of Electric Utilities
Chapter 1. Early Commercialization
Chapter 2. The First Electric Utilities
Chapter 3. The Adoption of State Commission Rate Regulation
Chapter 4. Growth and Growing Pains
Chapter 5. Public Utility Holding Companies: Opportunity and Crisis
Chapter 6. Public Utility Holding Companies: Indictment and “Death Sentence”
Chapter 7. Hydroelectricity and the Federal Government
Chapter 8. Rural Electrification
Conclusion and a Look Forward from 1940
Notes
Bibliography
Index
 

Editorial Reviews

“Neufeld has written extensively and incisively on the history of the US electric utility industry, making him well positioned to undertake a comprehensive examination of the history of this unique industry. Blending solid economic theory with the historian’s attention to detail, this book likely will be his magnum opus.”