The Future is Today

I ran across an article that recounted predictions from a group of great thinkers in 1922 about their vision for the world a hundred years later. Here are a few of my favorites:

“The people of the year 2022 will probably never see a wire outlined against the sky: it is practically certain that wireless telegraphy and wireless telephones will have crushed the cable system long before the century is done.”

We aren’t quite there yet, but communications technology has certainly come into its own. Could this man have imagined we would have the ability to make a voice or video call, navigate to any address, watch a movie, and see a dinner menu — all from a device that fits into your pocket? Our electric system also relies on communications technology to operate. A complex network of devices throughout the grid allows us to deliver electricity more reliably and safely than ever.

“Coal will not be exhausted, but our reserves will be seriously depleted, and so will those of oil. It is likely that by that time a great deal of power will be obtained from tides, from the sun, probably from radium and other forms of radial energy, while it may also be that atomic energy will be harnessed.”

Even though we haven’t ‘exhausted’ coal and oil supplies, our use of them has been restricted by regulations and policy — especially when it comes to power production. The renewable energy he speaks of has somewhat come to fruition, albeit with limitations. PowerSouth completed its first solar project last year, with two more planned projects. The completion of Vogtle Unit 3 last year introduced clean, efficient nuclear power into our mix. Together with natural gas and hydro, this diverse energy mix helps cushion us from the volatility of fuel markets and has lowered our carbon dioxide emissions by almost 70 percent since 2006.

“All the domestic and inaugural work of the city, all locomotion and transportation, will some time be done by electricity, and that in a not very distant future, fires and combustion will be altogether forbidden by law within city limits.”

We call this ‘beneficial electrification.’ Using electricity to power everything from locomotives to clothes dryers was a far-fetched idea in 1822 but is commonplace now. The proliferation of electric vehicles isn’t far over the horizon, spurred by federal incentives for customers to purchase them and to build charging networks to power them. The challenges are many, including making sure we have adequate power generation and distribution resources in place to meet these needs.

While we’re excited about the possibilities of these technologies, we also rely on tried-and-true means of serving our members, focusing on maintaining high reliability and controlling costs.

In many ways, the future is today. Although I’m still waiting for the flying car I was promised in the 1970s, I’m excited to see what comes next for our industry.