Rory, while the notion that electrical utilities have only been pursuing the two fundamental goals of finding more customers and making more money for the last century may serve as convenient fodder for stoking EDF's contributor base, it's hardly representative of the actual history of the industry.
The utility industry has been rife with change from the start, and it's still changing, Many of the business plans introduced in the American industry have become models for the world, and that's because they've been tremendously successful at not only making money for utilities but delivering energy reliably and cleanly to their customers.
The new "anti-utility" focus of distributed energy has the dirty fingerprints of subsidized renewables all over it, and amounts to a power grab by an industry with fading support seeking a new government-sponsored lifeline. Meanwhile, attempts to make pro-environmental points often make no sense at all. For example:
Options once considered fringe, like...driving electric cars...are now becoming so mainstream that utilities everywhere are seeing their bottom lines being crunched...
How could utilities selling more of their product be in any way considered a negative for their bottom line? Equally fallacious is the idea that a "heavier reliance on local, distributed energy resources" would be an ultimately beneficial change. It fights several basic principles of engineering, including standardization of equipment, accurate recordkeeping, and dependable maintenance procedure. It makes safety repairs and improvements much more costly, and all but eliminates economies of scale.
In short, the ultimate goal of this movement toward de-regulation is privatization, lack of accountability, and price-gouging (so far in every market where utilities have been deregulated electricity prices have gone up). So let's toss aside the notion that this is some populist scheme for the benefit of society, and instead describe it as what it is: an industry which will make some famously rich at the expense of service, with only illusory gains for the environment.