A pylon standing in the Mersey Valley Nature Trail, a green urban space and conservation area, in Stockport, Greater Manchester, England, United 5 utility software examples on April 20, 2016. Utilities have operated more or less the same since the electrification of American cities began more than a century ago.
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Americans run their lights and appliances, the utility company sends a bill for the electricity consumed and customers send in a check. But major changes in the energy industry—driven by everything from technological advances to environmental regulation—have uprooted the business model of electric utility companies across the globe. Alex Laskey, president of Opower, a company that provides software services to utilities to help consumers reduce electricity consumption among other things. They have decided that they don’t want to be a commodity provider any longer.
What they want to be is an energy services provider. Providing an array of energy services, rather than just providing electricity, means something different for each utility. Utility companies in sunny states with regulations favorable to residential solar have considered selling and marketing solar panels themselves, or contracting with local providers. Utility companies have also turned to selling efficiency solutions. A utility company might recommend and sell LED lights to customers who could reduce their electricity use by using them. Small businesses with widely varied energy use patterns offer a much broader set of opportunities.
A utility company might offer an energy efficient oven to a pizzeria or motion sensors to turn off lights to a company with a little-used warehouse. Interstate 15 and Ivanpah Solar, June 2012Interstate 15 moves north toward the state line near Primm, Nevada with the site of Ivanpah Solar in the distance. Alluvial slope and corner of Solar Field Two, January 2012The natural erosion patterns of the alluvial slope contrast with the geometric pattern of the boundary and service roads of Solar Field Two. Construction yard, Solar Field Two, January 2012Detail of the construction yard surrounding the Power Block of Solar Field Two. Heliostat installation, June 2012Aerial view of heliostat installation on Solar Field One. Service Roads, Solar Field Three, June 2012Aerial view of service roads that form concentric circles around the Power Block of Solar Field Three. Heliostat installation, June 2012 Workers installing a heliostat at Solar Field One.