Electricity - the next oil

As one who vows that, to take my air conditioner, you'll have to pry my dead, delightfully cold fingers from the thermostat, I found an article in a recent issue of Forbes troubling. It reported that our electrical generation system is almost maxed out. As soon as 2009, we could start seeing shortfalls in the Northeast, Texas and the West, and by 2011, New York and the Atlantic seaboard.

The U.S. currently has about 17,000 generators online pumping out 1 million megawatts of powers. In 2006, the overall North American system was running at 84% of capacity.

Much has been made recently about the time required to bring new plants online. In the next five years, new generators currently under plan or development will add less than 90 thousand megawatts, or under 10% growth. Over the past five years, demand has increased almost 13%. Since much of this added capacity will come from natural gas, the increase in this fuel's price and continuing storage deficit lead me to conclude that, gulp, we will experience continued escalation of our electrical bills.

On the bright side, perhaps many of us will now be able to cost-justify more steps to make our homes more efficient, such as insulation, new windows, and more efficient appliances.

Given these prospects, now would be an excellent time to shop for a generator, rather than waiting until the night before an ice storm.

Are you prepared for an electrical outage?