One of the articles curated by The Verge's "Best Tech Writing of the Week" was one written by Tim Wu in the New Republic about the necessity for rebuilding a smarter power grid in New York City.
Wu decribes a decentralized network, not unlike the internet, that would distribute power generation over a diverse set of sources, not a single one carrying power to a small set of substations, which convert power to home/commercial use.
It's interesting because it outlines a future enabled by technological advances in regulating such a system, which would not only prevent long-term mass power outages, but also could create more market parity for purchasing electricity. He calls this the "microgrid".
In lower Manhattan, for instance, an apartment building could take power from multiple sources: its own heating system, the local hospital’s generator, solar panels on a nearby office, while still relying on ConEd as a supplement and backup. Over time, homes would come to depend primarily on many different local sources of power, as opposed to the large power plants. In the event of a failure that knocked out a local wiring or power, the network would be able to heal itself, by taking power through different routes to reach powerless homes.
This has obvious implcations on the price and sustainability of of power in low-income neighborhoods as much as it does in economic centers. Imagine if a school could produce electricity for the surrounding neighborhood. Furthermore, imagine if those same schools became hubs for internet connectivity in the same area?
Despite modern schools' spurious track records for building futures for low-income students, many folks in these communities trust the institutions they send their precious children to.
While learning is being more centralized without anyone's active permission, we can push for necessary utilities to become decentralized as well, producing more than just the value of education for neighborhoods. Being that the school I taught at for 5 years is one of just a handful of active, walkable businesses in a zipcode radius (the other being day-care centers, a corner store, a barbershop and a chinese restaurant), there is some responsibility to be a more fruitful member of the community.
Our roof is large, as is our HVAC system. Both could be used to produce and distribute power throughout the neighborhood. Our network is robust, and could be a central node on a mesh network ranging for blocks. And the trust is there to be a public utility that can do more than what it is currently tasked to do.