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ERIC Number: EJ847572
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 14
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 57
ISSN: ISSN-1071-6084
Technological Systems and Momentum Change: American Electric Utilities, Restructuring, and Distributed Generation Technologies
Hirsh, Richard F.; Sovacool, Benjamin K.
Journal of Technology Studies, v32 n2 p72-85 Spr 2006
The American electric utility system has been massively transformed during the last three decades. Viewed previously as a staid, secure, and heavily regulated natural monopoly, the system has shed elements of government oversight and now appears to be increasingly susceptible to terrorist attacks and other disruptions. Overturning the conventional wisdom of the 1960s and 1970s, dependence on large-scale generation plants and high-voltage transmission networks now seems to decrease reliability of the system. The same hardware also subjects utility companies to pollution concerns at a time when environmental sustainability has become a serious political and economic issue worldwide. In this article, the authors examine the reversal of almost a century of momentum in the electric utility system. To do so, the authors employ the nonengineering version of the systems approach, which has proven useful for analyzing sociotechnical enterprises. The authors also explore longterm and cross-industry trends in the use of technologies; in particular, they note that industrial use of large-scale technologies, which provide great economies of scale, may have reached limits in certain fields, such that small-scale technologies may have become better suited for use. The authors underscore the importance of nontechnical (i.e., social) action in the development of technologies. (Contains 3 figures.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A