Energy-conserving Americans threaten the long-term future of the country’s power grid.

Industry experts tell The Wall Street Journal that less power use is hampering utilities’ ability to maintain the hodgepodge of high-voltage lines and generating plants. Utilities can’t raise rates too much because that will just push more people to invest in “energy-saving gizmos” and solar panels, further reducing the demand for electricity from the grid.

The Edison Electric Institute, a trade group for investor-owned utilities, has warned utilities could face a “death spiral.”

Since 2004, average residential electricity prices have jumped 39 percent to 12.5 cents a kilowatt-hour, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Prices for all users have jumped 36 percent to 10.42 cents . Retail sales to homes and businesses still are less than they were in 2007, before the recession.

NRG Energy is among the power companies embracing the consumer push to move off the grid. The company’s retail unit sells energy products, such as rooftop solar systems and small solar-powered battery chargers, to consumers.