What the Paris climate talks mean for utility companies

Fortune recently featured this article by Alex Laskey, President and Founder of Opower and Terry Sobolewski, Chief Customer Officer at National Grid on their website.

After a relentless storm of bad news about the climate — record-shattering heat, monster hurricanes, raging wildfires, and no political will to do anything about it — the world seems to be having a moment. In the run-up to the Paris climate talks, more than 160 countries have put forward targets that could support a worldwide agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

For the first time in years, along with all that carbon, there’s some hope in the air, as the world’s biggest polluters on Monday declared they were now supporting demands from African countries to adopt more ambitious goals to limit global warming.

When we think about the players that would turn a carbon pact into reality, thoughts usually turn to companies that are developing futuristic hardware. One case in point is Tesla Energy, which just took 38,000 pre-orders for its residential energy storage battery this year.

But the consumer market for clean technology solutions is still niche and, for the most part, restricted to people who can afford it. Make no mistake: these technologies are essential to a clean energy future. But hardware is slow to scale. The utilities we have today — and the policies that regulate them — are the fastest way to make sweeping, immediate cuts to carbon pollution.

Globally, the electricity and heat production industry is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions (though in some areas, like the Northeastern U.S., transportation takes the top spot). With a built-in customer base of billions, utilities have more potential than any other industry to effect change on a timescale that matters.

Read the full story here on Fortune’s website.

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