In late July I spoke at Cato University, which was great; I met so many interesting and thoughtful people, and learned a lot from my fellow participants and speakers. I’m also happy that Cato has made the presentation notes and recordings of the presentations available on their website, so you can see and hear them too!
One of my talks was called “The Economics of Intervention”, which is a large topic … so I focused on the interplay of technological change and regulation, ranging from Schumpeterian disruptive innovation to the history of the electricity industry and its regulation to current smart grid issues. You can also listen to a recording of my talk. If you are a regular KP reader you will recognize the themes and connections that I drew in the talk — innovation makes monopolies temporary, regulation that purports to “stand in for competition” cannot do so, and unless smart grid includes transactive technology and transactive market options, it’s not smart. The best way to deliver these potential benefits, and to avoid the distrust and Orwellian concerns attached to having such technology at the behest of government-granted monopolies and regulators is to open up retail electricity markets, reduce entry barriers, and enable innovators and entrepreneurs to transition electricity from a commodity product to a service that can be differentiated, bundled with other services, etc.
While I was there I also talked with Caleb Brown about the potential value creation from smart grid technologies and customer-focused business models, and he has posted our conversation as a podcast. I like his framing of the issue: free the electricity consumer!