With more corporations making their way into the energy business, new opportunities are coming online for utilities – not threats.

Earlier this summer, Apple announced the creation of Apple Energy, LLC. While it did so without the usual fanfare of an Apple announcement, the precedent set may well have iPhone-magnitude impacts on the future of energy in America. On June 6th, Apple Energy filed an application with FERC to sell excess energy directly to customers and at retail prices. If granted permission, Apple Energy could represent the next generation of independent power producers, putting major utilities on high alert.

Apple is already heavily invested in renewable energy generation. Most notably, their Nevada data centers are powered by Apple owned solar assets. Currently, Apple is eligible to sell excess energy back to the utility at wholesale prices through a “net metering” process that, in Nevada, pays them wholesale rates. If FERC accepts their application, they would have the power to bypass the utility and sell directly to customers at market rates. This would would open the door to sell not only excess energy, but to start producing energy for the purpose of sale on the country-wide open market.

Apple is not the only corporation who has been investing in renewables. Other tech giants like Google and Amazon have significant energy assets. With permission from FERC, it seems inevitable that corporations would become the next generation of IPPs. Deep pockets and a horizontal integration strategy may well prove to be a more successful strategy than the rickety vertical integration methods that sunk predecessors like SunEdison.

A general trend towards a more distributed, “grid 2.0” has threatened to send utilities into what’s known as the “utility death spiral” for years. This newest generation of corporate IPPs may be the most effective yet in expediting the grid 2.0 future. For utilities, the major question is what should they do next- and neither fight of flight is the right answer.

The predicament of the taxi industry serves as a good case study for utilities. Since the advent of automobiles, taxi services operated off of the same business model; stand on the corner, wave like a madman and maybe that taxi will stop for you. When ride share services such as Uber and Lyft came along, taxi companies insisted that people continue to stand on the corner and wave. They focused on stopping Uber and not on developing their own software. Now, in a scant five years, “call an Uber” has replaced “catch a cab” in the American lexicon.

Utilities can head this lesson to prevent their own demise. Their best chance at profiting in the future includes embracing the new opportunities offered by corporate IPPs. They should look to make partnerships now, while they still have power to wield. In other areas of the world, utilities have embraced grid 2.0, investing more in distributed generation sources. Projects like the Apple solar farm could be great projects for utilities to invest in.

The advice to the utilities is clear: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. With the general trend of the US energy landscape, and forecasting for Europe, US utilities are already realizing that these partnerships are prudent. For example, Dominion Virginia Power recently entered into a deal with Amazon, where the utility will provide energy management services for Amazon’s solar and wind investments. Taking on these new project types will be new territory for the utilities, but with high rewards. Having a strong data management system can help power producers keep their balance sheets organized, stay ahead of overising costs and avoid risk. Overall having control and insight over data will be essential for easing the transition, and setting these new projects up for success.