The history of the electric power industry in the United States is also the history of the exercise of political power – a continuing struggle between investor-owned electric utilities and state regulators charged with shielding dependent rate-paying customers from predatory behavior. The industry's arch-founder, Samuel Insull, created a utility holding company empire in part by exploiting a regulatory vacuum. Roosevelt's New Deal dismantled Insull's empire and, through TVA, competed directly with incumbent utilities, thereafter determining industry structure through regulation and economic intervention. Ambitious utility executives, Ken Lay and Jim Rogers among them, sought to use the political process, with limited success, to shape and co-opt the government's regulatory role, which has nonetheless grown ever more pervasive in response to decentralization, decarbonisation, demand response, and sophisticated trading markets in power.
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