Electricity deregulation is a relatively new phenomenon, although the idea of unregulated electricity is far from new.
When electricity utilities were just getting started, there were often multiple providers directly competing in urban areas. Over the years the redundant systems in a city were purchased by one company and consolidated into a single electric utility that provided service for all residents.
At first it seemed like a good idea since it brought all the infrastructure together and made regulating electric utilities much easier. However, by the 1980s utility companies were habitually raising rates and customers were bearing the increasing cost as best they could. Talk of deregulating both gas and electricity utilities started shortly thereafter, but little progress was made into restructuring until the 1990s. Both electricity and natural gas deregulation is now commonplace in the United States.