We may soon forget last week’s polar vortex that brought record-breaking cold to two-dozen states. But I guarantee that every business owner in America will remember that week when they open their utility bill at the end of the month.

Unlike residential customers, who pay a flat rate for their electricity, businesses and institutions are required to pay for both the energy consumed (kWh) and peak electricity use during a given time period (kW) or “demand” charges. These demand charges spike significantly when businesses use greater amounts of electricity during extreme weather events, costing business owners thousands.

Though electricity usage in the US has increased by only 10% since 2001, utility revenues have increased by more than 50 percent during that same time period, largely due to demand charges. Many businesses pay 40% or more of their monthly electric bill in demand charges.

Fortunately, business owners are not without options. Smart grid technologies like energy storage can help businesses moderate their energy use to eliminate the peaks while still allowing them to blast their heat or air conditioning as needed. Intelligent energy storage uses algorithms based on utility and weather data to predict demand and store energy as needed.

Green Charge Networks has found that businesses using our energy storage solution were able to cut demand by more than 50% during the polar vortex. Similarly, we’ve found that our customers reduced demand by 56% during New York City’s heat wave last summer.

The ultimate test came to one of our GreenStations™ in 2012 with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. Thankfully, the system endured the storm, thereby helping to prove that energy storage is an important tool as our society adapts to a changing climate.

Climate change is becoming an increasingly urgent issue for our aging utility grid. Between 2003-2012, the US experienced 679 major weather related outages, including 7 of the 10 costliest storms in US history.

Not only can intelligent energy storage help small businesses adapt to climate change, if more businesses adopted energy storage we could make a real dent in carbon dioxide emissions.

If smart grid technologies were implemented across the entire United States, we could save the energy equivalent of 4,000 coal plants per year. Given that commercial buildings account for 18% of US carbon dioxide emissions, starting with businesses makes a lot of sense.