The world economy and its energy systems are on the cusp of epochal change as we usher in an era of more sustainable life, noted author and social thinker Jeremy Rifkin said.

Electricity prices will plummet as solar and wind power generation gets deployed at an ever fast clip.

“We are heading to 4 cents a kilowatt hour and then it's going to get to 3 cents a kilowatt hour,” he predicted for the future price of electricity.

“It's just going.  It's exponential,” Rifkin said in an exclusive hour-long interview with the Energy Times last week. 

This will mean massive disruption for utility enterprises valued in the billions of dollars. Will they survive?

“Some will, some won’t,” Rifkin said.

Rifkin will be exploring in great detail the changes ahead for utilities and energy companies – and the strategies they must rally around - when he delivers the opening keynote address at the Empowering Customers & Cities conference organized by The Energy Times in Chicago November 1-2.

“We are meeting all the time with CEOs of the major power and utility companies to flesh out this transformation and actually how to make the transition over 30 years,” he said.

“It is a third Industrial Revolution based on a platform that is distributed, open, collaborative, transparent, and laterally-scaled. It is a disruptive revolution that is going to require quite a bit of expertise for companies to engage,” Rifkin said.

For utilities with conservative business cultures that have evolved over decades of low risk and minimal change, adapting may be hard.

But if they fail to step up to the challenge, they could become history.

“Think about the opportunities of being one of many players, managing energy internets that are connected to communication internets and transport internets, all on top of an internet of things platform.  The opportunities are enormous for the power companies,” Rifkin said.

“If they don't do it, others will,” Rifkind said. “What I am trying to say to them is please understand that you have to move from being, you know, frightened, to being excited."

Out of the transformation, huge benefits stand to be reaped by the energy consuming world.

“This is a tough struggle, but it is a worthy one,” Rifkin said.  “This is what's going to allow us to address climate change and create a sustainable society, a more equitable society for everybody.  This is a legacy.”