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Understanding the electric power industry can at times be overwhelming given the amount of information, technical jargon, economic forecasts, and detail involved with such a complex field. For the sanguine (or the cynical), the more regulatory or deregulatory initiatives the better because the industry needs the regulatory services of lawyers and other consultants. For the less sanguine (or the less cynical), there is a desire for some stillness in this ongoing change in the regulation of the electric power industry. It is the intent of this article to provide some relief through a brief regulatory history of the electric industry.

This history will shine some light on the path that the industry has traveled over the last century and is likely to travel for the next generation. The broader purpose of the article is to explain the life cycle of government regulation of any industry using the electricity industry as a case study. This story demonstrates that industries go through a cycle from competition through regulation and back to competition. Hopefully, by understanding this cycle both the regulatory history and the future of the electric industry will be more comprehensible. While the demands of day-to-day industry regulation cannot be greatly lessened, at least they can be understood and placed into a broader context.