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Wandering Eye: Big trouble for utility companies, a look at increasing the minimum wage, and more

Wandering Eye: Big trouble for utility companies, a look at increasing the minimum wage, and more

Utility companies have failed to prepare what's already here, and will continue to grow: competition from fast-growing demand for "distributed renewables" such as solar panels and other power systems that generate clean, renewable energy right where it is used, allowing consumers to go increasingly off the grid. This is not new news, but was driven home even more clearly and urgently in a brand-new study by Accenture, the world's largest management-consulting firm. The study, summarized well here, predicts that the trend will cut utility-company revenues by as much as nearly $125 billion a year by 2025 in the U.S. and Europe, and concludes that companies will need to "fundamentally transform their business models" to maintain market share. For some, like the Rocky Mountain Institute, it's a cause for celebration. (Van Smith)

As The Washington Post notes, 20 states are set to increase their minimum wage on Jan. 1, with Washington state's going the highest at $9.47. Some major cities are trying to go well beyond that. Seattle in June voted unanimously to increase the minimum to $15 an hour over the course of several years. Los Angeles is considering a similar increase, and the Times looks into what that could mean for local businesses. Given that the L.A. area is one giant slab of sprawl, a lot of the surrounding suburban towns, such as Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena, could gain lots of new jobs as businesses—such as Golden Road Brewing, the brewery featured in the story's introduction—flee the city while still being able to serve the same customers. The city's mayor, Eric Garcetti, isn't too worried, though. "I understand the feeling," he told the Times, "but on balance, it actually creates much more business activity." (Brandon Weigel)

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Our annual "People Who Died" issue used to look at national figures we had lost over the course of the year, but a couple of years ago we decided to make its focus local so that we could highlight the lives of Baltimoreans who passed away. So now, for great little portraits of more national figures, we turn to the New York Times Magazine's "The Lives they Lived" feature. This year, among others, there were amazing profiles of longtime WaPo editor Ben Bradlee, art critic Rene Ricard, poets Maya Angelou and Amiri Baraka, actress Lauren Bacall, the great writer Mavis Gallant, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, and folk-icon Pete Seeger, with whom we were lucky enough to spend some time the year before he died. There's also Eric Garner, the man we all saw saying "I can't breathe" as he was choked by a New York City cop, Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and more than we like to count. It's been a year of heavy loss, both locally and abroad, and while the loss is hard, it's great to see the Times honor the lives they led. (Baynard Woods)

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