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Lights Out: The Electricity Crisis, the Global Economy, and What It Means To You 1st Edition

4.6 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0470109182
ISBN-10: 0470109181
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Editorial Reviews


"Lights Out is a fast paced, no-holds-barred account of what is wrong in our electricity sector and how we might get it back on track, written by someone who has been in the business long enough to know what he is writing about."
—Leonard Hyman, author of America's Electric Utilities: Past, Present, and Future

"Jason Makansi gives us a succinct, insightful view of recent electricity problems. His lively, provocative writing explains the mysteries of the technology, the politics, the regulation, and the market manipulation. Parts of the book may make you mad, but you won't be able to put it down and you will always be learning something."—Lester Lave, PhD, Professor of Economics and Codirector, Electricity Industry Center, Carnegie Mellon University

"This new work is provocative, factual, and will make you think about the situation we face. It is a must-read for anyone even slightly interested in the adequacy of the U.S. power sector and what the future may hold. Industry, regulatory, and political leaders need to read this to see the possible end results of their decisions."—Barry Worthington, Executive Director, United States Energy Association

"Jason Makansi's long history in the electricity business has given him keen insights into the inner workings of the utility industry, and his examples and illustrations, based on his personal attempts at demand side management at home with his family, give a lighter background to what is a profound and sometimes alarming thesis."—Geoffrey R. Egan, PhD, President, APTECH Engineering Services, Inc.

"This book enables even the novice to understand clearly the multifaceted issues facing an electricity-thirsty world. This book lays the foundation for understanding how complex power generation and delivery truly is, and is a clarion call to citizens and consumers worldwide alike to become more informed and more involved."—Timothy McCreary, President, HF Controls

"This thoroughly researched and well-documented discourse explores the litany of issues plaguing the energy industry today. Lights Out will challenge your critical thinking skills and may cause you to question your position on the issues. More importantly, Lights Out proposes realistic solutions that even our elected representatives can comprehend and should seriously consider."—Dr. Robert V. Peltier, PE, Editor in Chief, Power magazine

"Lights Out: The Electricity Crisis, The Global Economy, And What it Means to You points out a troubling reality in today's world--too many people take the electric power infrastructure for granted. Jason Makansi draws on his years of experience to illuminate numerous dimensions of today's US power sector--engineering, political, economic

and financial--to make it all too apparent that taking reliable, affordable and environmentally sound power for granted is a mistake. This book is an important catalyst for a long overdue discussion we all need to have regarding our electric power future."

-- Lawrence Makovich, Managing Director of Cambridge Energy Research Associates Global Power Group

"Jason Makansi’s 25 years experience in the electric power industry, combined with his ability to explain complex technologies in simple terms, makes him the ideal author for this book. It should be required reading for everyone in the trade, the financial community and others providing products and services to the industry, as well as for business schools that teach why technology leadership can be fleeting. And let’s not forget the peeved customer who wants an unbiased explanation."-- Robert G. Schwieger, Editor and Publisher, COMBINED CYCLE Journal

"For anybody who believes that electricity will always be easily available with the flip of a wall switch, Jason Makansi's book Lights Out provides an important education"--St. Louis Post-Dispatch

From the Inside Flap

Electricity powers almost every part of our lives. Yet many of us pay little attention to our electricity service. It's something that's noticed only by its absence—such as when service is disrupted, and our water, telecommunications, transportation, and banking systems grind to a halt, and our homes, our businesses, indeed, our daily lives, shut down. Curiously, electricity doesn't hold the headlines or dramatic power of oil, even though the ability to ensure its uninterrupted supply at a reasonable price is even more essential to global survival and prosperity. That's because it is still treated and viewed as a parochial industry, the "local utility," despite the fact that it is being moved and shaken by a sophisticated global energy business, and deeply implicated in global environmental issues.

Written by Jason Makansi, one of the world's most seasoned electricity industry experts, Lights Out calls attention to this dangerous paradox—one that is quietly immobilizing progress—and proposes a comprehensive road map that will put us on a more rational path and help us avoid the serious consequences of an unhealthy electricity infrastructure.

Filled with in-depth insights and practical advice, Lights Out examines our "third-world" transmission grid, one that is in desperate need of upgrading; offers an honest assessment of how to deal with electricity's contribution to global warming; and addresses numerous hot-button economic, environmental, and political issues related to the current debate—from free markets versus regulation to energy independence versus foreign imports. Beyond just uncovering and illuminating the problems, however, Lights Out also presents a comprehensive collection of technical solutions and regulatory reforms from both the productionand demand sides of the equation—a framework forrethinking, rebuilding, and enhancing our entire electricity production and delivery infrastructure.

Divided into three engaging parts, this essential book offers a detailed look at:

  • How today's electricity system works—from the extractionof the raw energy source to the electricity-consuming appliances in your home—and what happens if these "supply lines" begin to break down

  • Why the strongest, most vibrant economy in the world is increasingly dependent upon a production, transmission, and distribution system that continues to be built for the last fifty years, not the next half century

  • What can be done to rescue us from the current path we're on—from embracing new technologies ready for deployment to reformulating business models based on common sense, not market or political ideologies

  • And much more

Prescriptive and provocative, Lights Out will redefine the simmering debate on how the world can—and must—act now to head off the global consequences of inadequate electricity service, consequences that could eventually, and more insidiously, wreak greater havoc than the ongoing tensions in world oil markets.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (June 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470109181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470109182
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,928,299 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
If you wonder how our country may be vulnerable in respect to the next national disaster, either via home-grown or foreign terrorist strike or climactic catastrophe or even simple human error....

If you are frustrated with recent power outages affecting your business or neighborhood and don't know why they are (and will keep) occurring...

If you wonder how we can get from "here" to "there" regarding our current reliance on overseas oil and fossil fuel-generated power to a more reliable, efficient and sustainable form of energy supply and transmission...

If you are someone in the industry who is frustrated with the merger and acquisition aspect of making the business end work and need both optimism and practical ideas for growth in this field.....

If you are, like me, a consumer who just wants to know what is behind the wall...

The answers, the ideas, and the possibilities are in this book.

I read "Lights Out" in two days. Informational without being grossly technical, provocative without demonizing any particular person or group, and at times bitingly funny, Jason Makansi writes in an accessible way about a complex subject, drawn from his deep background in the field and an honest, almost Trumanesque prose style. With no real understanding of how my lights go on, or any more than a consumer's investment in this industry--I was engaged from start to finish. This book sounds the alarm, describes the problems, and ignites a passion for taking the next step before we are facing a greater crisis.

For example, in the chapter titled, "Savvy Consumption, Empowering Ratepayers" he writes, "What if you also quantified the value of energy independence.....
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Format: Hardcover
This is a well-written book that explains how our very complex electrical transmission system works, and the problems we face as the transmission grid falls apart from lack of investment and deregulation. Electricity powers the infrastructure and machinery that keeps us alive, and our communication and digital systems.


The central theme of "Lights Out" is that the most important part of the electric grid, the transmission system, is being neglected. It's only ten percent of the "value chain", but it's the most essential component keeping the electricity flowing. Transmission experts consider the United States grid "third-world".


The electrical system is one huge machine. If all of the parts aren't connected and synchronized, the machine stops. Over 75 percent of electricity is generated with fossil fuels and is the source of one-third of the green house gases in the USA. Even the "cleaner and greener" natural gas plants release methane over their life cycle. Methane is over twenty times as powerful in its global warming effects as carbon dioxide.

Wind power doesn't make this problem go away, because they have to be backed up by If combined cycle natural gas plants to compensate for when the wind dies down and to maintain stability.

Stability is incredibly important, just a tiny bit too much flowing through the lines, or too little, can ruin power equipment and the machines using electricity. Ten percent of the electricity flowing never gets delivered - it's just there to keep the grid stable.

Electricity is totally unpredictable. Now one knows where it will go, all engineers know for sure is that it will take the path of least resistance.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had high hopes for this book, but it's a very disappointing book. And I'm amazed at the reviews by others of the book. Makansi knows a lot, but he does a poor job of communicating precisely the problems he perceives with our electricity grid. The book is lively and eccentric, but very poorly edited.

I think it's a waste of time.

I happen to know Jason Makansi (from the long-ago past) and believe him to be a very capable person, but he could write a much better book if forced to show some discipline in the writing process.
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Format: Hardcover
Electricity provides the fundamental power that drives our economy. The complex quilt of regulation, special interest groups, ownership, and consumer behavior make it a very difficult industry to comprehend and manage. This eclectic set of interests obfuscates the issues that we must address to keep our economy strong and our environment clean. Too often zealots high jack the debate putting our future at risk.

"Lights Out" sorts through these interests and presence a coherent way to insure our countries electricity supply while protecting the environment. The author has accomplished the rare feat of writing a very readable book on a complex technical topic. Many parts of the book read as a novel. I just about finished it in one reading. The book accomplishes its goals of: describing the electric generation and distribution industry, providing a roadmap for the future, and call each of us to action. It looks at the challenge from several dimensions and ends with a call to personal action. I found myself in agreement with virtually all of the recommendations with the exception of placing some constraints on the financial aspects of private equity entering the market. I understand the author's concerns for open and transparent operations. If these are insured I believe that open financial markets will enhance the solution not hinder it.

My favorite part of the book was the call to personal accountability. As Pogo said, "we've met the enemy and he is us." Each of us can play a role in the solution by: simply conserving electricity through changing our light bulbs, turning off equipment, insulating our houses, and running appliances more intelligently.
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