The electrical grid is changing very rapidly beyond solar panels, wind turbines, or electric vehicles. The recent boom in industry transformation and the increase in the number of players in the field that is driven by the urgency for cleaner energy sources to mitigate climate change is significantly complicating the way the grid operates. Peter Kelly-Detwiler says in his new book, The Energy Switch, “it has too often been observed that the grid of the early 2000s would have been easily recognizable to Thomas Edison, since so little had changed. That truism is about to be tossed out the window, if it hasn’t been already.” (p. 71).

The Energy Switch by Peter Kelly-Detwiler is a timely book about an overdue revolutionary transformation of the global electrical ecosystem with particular focus on the U.S. Kelly-Detwiler explains how electricity works down to the Watt. He then dives in and introduces all the major players driving this revolutionary change in how we produce, distribute, and consume electricity. While exploring the technologies that are available in the industry, he masterfully weaves insights from field experts. He uses his research site visits or conversations with field experts as preambles to each chapter, giving the reader personal insights into the industry. Kelly- Detwiler explains with great detail, yet with impeccable simplicity and clarity, the technical operations of electricity as he takes the reader on a journey across the nation to meet and learn about the current field players, the latest technological advancement in the field, the people running the scene, and the challenges they face. He explains the transformational process that the industry is undergoing with all the promising potential and the hindering risks. An interesting aspect of the book is that it was researched and written in 2020, which makes it a unique case study of an unprecedented global crisis and the ways the energy industry handled it to continue to manage and operate the grid.

The Energy Switch is a book that offers the reader an immersive experience into the industry as it currently stands. The author’s heavy reliance on his conversations with leading field experts or stories from his personal experiences or others as consumers may seem anecdotal. But those stories and conversations are partially what makes the book accessible; they provide strong examples of how the consumer, who now has more control than ever on how they use energy, is participating in transforming the electrical grid.

Explaining how heavy machinery operates, turbines or solar panels in this case for example, to a non-expert reader can be a difficult task. It takes a skilled science writer to describe a scientific process in an engaging and accessible way. William Zinsser in On Writing Well says, “you can take much of the mystery out of science writing by helping the reader to identify with the scientific work being done….Another way to making science accessible is to write like a person and not like a scientist. It’s the same old question of being yourself.” Kelly-Detwiler does exactly that. He writes with his own words. His voice is very vivid across the pages. The book is a great read for anyone with an interest in fully understanding the big picture of the electrical grid as it operates today regardless of their level of knowledge or expertise in the subject.