What's in Store in Twenty-Four?


Scylla and Charybdis

Fortnightly Magazine - January 2024

What’s in store in twenty-four? We know that interest rates will remain higher than any time since the earliest years of the twenty-first century. Though they are likely to moderate. We know that electricity demand will keep surging at rates not seen since the earliest years of the nineteen-seventies. And they are not likely to moderate.

We know that national elections will be held in this year’s eleventh month. Depending upon how the vote goes, by year-end we may know the policy trends that have been in place will persist. Or by year-end we may know quite the opposite. That we’ll be reversing course with respect to the pace and nature of the energy transition.

As U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously said: “There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we don’t know we don’t know.”

Supply chains for a broad range of critical equipment and materials will continue to be all too tenuous. There will be no let up as well, as to a panoply of problems that threaten the resilience of our energy systems, from cyberattacks to wildfires to weather extremes, seemingly ever more vicious, no thanks to climate change.

As we contemplate how we, in the fashion of Odysseus, shall confront the various Scylla and Charybdis of the new year, it is good to remember the strengths of our ship at sea. The utilities industry has and is investing intensively in energy system resilience, with courageous support by regulatory and political leaders. The ship’s crew, the public service-minded people of the industry and its regulators, are increasingly inventive as they put into place new equipment and new processes to head off the increasing threats.

In twenty-twenty four, the Public Utilities Fortnightly team will again host the Edison Congress in April and Fortnightly Top Innovators in October, shining a light on the great engineering and operations leaders of the industry in the spring event and the great innovators of the industry in the fall event. When you see all these dedicated and creative folks in the same room, you cannot doubt that the best and brightest are on the beat to keep our lights shining.

Rumsfeld did warn that there are unknown unknowns, things we don’t know we don’t know. So, let us all prepare to encounter whatever comes next, in the new year. And as we do, you can count on one thing for sure. Public Utilities Fortnightly will be there to chronicle how the utilities industry and its regulators steer the ship through the Strait of Messina.