"Electric utilities have been doing everything they can to preserve their bottom line from conducting multi-billion mergers to snapping up more profitable natural gas businesses. Their trouble lies in one thing they can’t control: demand.
Power consumption in the U.S. has stalled for the last decade, breaking the link the industry has enjoyed with economic growth. For more than a century after Thomas Edison invented the light bulb in the 1870s, electricity demand rose steadily, boosting utility profits in the process.
The lull couldn’t have come at a worse time for the industry, which is already struggling with the end of their historic monopolies. Power-sipping appliances, LED lighting and a shift away from heavy industry all have contributed to the slowdown, and that’s forcing traditional generators from Duke Energy Corp. to Southern Co. to re-examine how they can make money."