Tangled up in Blockchain: Blockchain, communities and their global implications for a new energy paradigm

By Molly Webb

Molly Webb is Founder of Energy Unlocked, working with new market entrants to accelerate the pace of energy system transitions to meet ambitious climate change targets. Their recent EPIC project identified 100 energy productivity innovators, including blockchain based solutions. http://www.energyunlocked.org. Get in touch to get involved.

Feb 14, 2017 | Resources, Technology | 0 comments

The promise: Off grid communities producing and sharing resilient, cost-effective solar energy without an electricity supplier, and generating a SolarCoins as added income…. Communities in major cities choosing the price or type of electricity generation moment by moment, as they share electricity between ‘prosumers’, reducing grid congestion and achieving low carbon targets at the same time….

These are just two potential ways blockchain can transform energy as we know it. Blockchain is not just for finance anymore — it’s most famous as the underpinning technology of cryptocurrency Bitcoin — but can be used for applications as different as transparent land titling or voting. But are ‘energy blockchains’ able to deliver the promise of renewable, decentralised energy? For now, we may be at the peak of the ‘hype’ cycle. More companies are working on blockchain than deploying it.

Certainly there are already real projects delivering real value to customers amongst the hype. Companies like LO3 Energy and Power Ledger are engaged in Peer to Peer energy trials, but these are very early stage. Solar PV forecasts within 5% accuracy are being tested in Cyprus by SolarChange. CEO Assaf Ben Or is confident that “smart predictions, insights and forecasts can be taken to a new level, driving efficiencies, saving millions and impacting the global renewable energy marketplace.”

This year and next will see an upsurge in the number of demonstrations. We will learn what works and what doesn’t, how consumers react and participate in new business propositions. The underpinning technology will be evolving alongside.  As Lawrence Orsini said from LO3 Energy, “We have built our own energy blockchain and Transactive Grid platform to test how consumers adopt this technology and more importantly the markets and services it enables in Brooklyn. We are going to be bringing the technology to a number of demonstrations internationally the next few years to make sure we’re not just creating value for people in Brooklyn, but for communities all over the globe.

Part of adoption of any new paradigm is discussion. Today, innovators, utilities, regulators and experts will descend on Vienna, Austria for the Event Horizon Global Summit on Blockchain Technology and the Energy Sector to share the latest case studies and insights about putting blockchain to work for energy outcomes.

In this spirit, energy blockchain application developers Grid Singularity and NGO Rocky Mountain Institute, along with major global utilities, will today announce the Energy Web Foundation. Not only will the focus be case studies, but the plan is to promote a standard platform (think Linux, the open-source underpinning operating system of the Android mobile platform). “We’re solving some key issues with open ledgers applied to energy, such as the speed and security of transactions,” said Grid Singularity CEO Ewald Hesse.

While standards are crucial to creating big waves from new technological ripples, utilities that are participating in the new initiative may not be able to thwart history. A disruptive new paradigm does not frequently come from the dominant industries of today. Cast our minds back to 1980, when mobile phone telephony company AT&T (and McKinsey) famously predicted mobile phone uptake would be about 1 million in the year 2000, when in fact it exceeded 100 million.

Energy Unlocked’s advisory board member Mark Kenber speaking at the Event Horizon event

AT&T eventually got back into the mobile industry, but I wonder would the world be different if they hadn’t left at that early stage? Would we have seen the competitive industry explode to 5 billion + mobile subscribers today with leading companies Apple and Google vying for smart-phone platform domination, and the host of copycat innovations that follow? Google didn’t exist until 1998, 20 years after the first phone mobile phone was trialled. Dominant players of today’s energy system may not be the leaders of tomorrow’s. As UK-based Mongoose Energy’s Mark Kenber, advisory board member to Energy Unlocked, said, “We expect to see many new forms of community energy companies changing how energy is owned and controlled. We’re just at the beginning.”

Energy and mobile access together provide access to markets and education, opportunities and livelihoods. Blockchain is a technology fit for enabling the distributed transactions that a mobile-enabled world craves. Most of us may never know blockchain is at the heart of it all, but will instead enjoy the benefits it brings. May the experiments continue.

Discussion

Leave your comment below, or reply to others.

Please note that this comment section is for thoughtful, on-topic discussions. Admin approval is required for all comments. Your comment may be edited if it contains grammatical errors. Low effort, self-promotional, or impolite comments will be deleted.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read more from MeetingoftheMinds.org

Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology

Equitable Stakeholder Engagement in a Remote World

Equitable Stakeholder Engagement in a Remote World

At Connect the Dots, it is our mission to build better cities, towns, and neighborhoods through inclusive, insight-driven stakeholder engagement. We help community, private, and public sector partners to develop creative solutions that move projects and cities forward. Engagement is at the heart of this pursuit, which is why we are sharing our practices with you.

When you decide to take your engagement activities online, we encourage using tools that are functional on a wide range of devices including basic smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers. We have also developed remote but non-virtual options to bridge the digital divide.

Using Smart City Technology to Adapt to COVID Mobility Preferences

Using Smart City Technology to Adapt to COVID Mobility Preferences

As cities continue to fight against COVID-19, citizens are changing their commuting preferences to adjust to a new way of life. Cities across the globe have experienced significant increases in the number of pedestrians, cyclists, and private cars on the roads as a result of public transport restrictions and social distancing requirements. This has created many new challenges, as cities previously dependent on public transport must now adapt to accommodate more vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians and cyclists.

No Equity, No Resilience: Minneapolis is All of Us

No Equity, No Resilience: Minneapolis is All of Us

It is critical to pause, reflect, and recognize that cities who are not equitable will always be in recovery mode. Inequity is a noted stress in the language of resilience shocks and stresses. It increases the probability and severity of shocks – like social uprisings and the civil unrest we have seen unfold. This holds true for a vast range of other natural and man-made shocks.

The Future of Cities

Mayors, planners, futurists, technologists, executives and advocates — hundreds of urban thought leaders publish on Meeting of the Minds. Sign up below to follow the future of cities.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Share This