Excerpt from a very timely energy reality check:
Why can't the private sector do this? What makes energy different from, say, electronics? Three things.
First, there are profound public interests in having more energy options. Our national security, economic health and environment are at issue. These are not primary motivations for private-sector investments, but they merit a public commitment.
Second, the nature of the energy business requires a public commitment. A new generation of television technology might cost $10 million to develop. Because those TVs can be built on existing assembly lines, that risk-reward calculus makes business sense. But a new electric power source can cost several billion dollars to develop and still carry the risk of failure. That investment does not compute for most companies.
Third, the turnover in our power system is very slow. Power plants last 50 years or more, and they are very cheap to run once built, meaning there is little market for new models.