The recent past has been marked by an almost complete dearth of new power plants as utilities navigated deregulation and local political problems. Now, estimates are that powergenerating capacity could rise by as much as 40% over the next six years.

Problem solved? Maybe not. A shortage of natural gas could prevent a third of planned new plants from coming online, some experts think. All the more reason to look at alternative energy sources such as fuel cells, solar arrays, and windmills. New types of nuclear reactors have proponents arguing that it is a technology worth reconsidering. But generating power is one thing; delivering it to consumers is another. The nation's electrical grid will need help if it is to handle future demands.