No Industry Immune To Blockchain Technology, Not Even The Electricity World
The electricity world may soon be altered in unimaginable ways. Change will come in small increments thanks to so-called blockchain technologies — the ability to conduct “peer-to-peer” transactions and to eliminate the middlemen, or the ones who scoop up a notable percentage of the sale.
Clean Energy Blockchain Network and Australia’s Power Ledger are using such software to enable four buildings at Northwestern University to shift their excess solar power between and amongst each other. And in California, the same two are tracking the production and consumption of solar energy in a parking garage that is charging electric vehicles.
Right now, a utility owns the meter and the commodity, and the sale is a proprietary transaction. What the blockchain technology does is to digitize that information and to permit those peer-to-peer sales, allowing the asset to be monitored and traded. A neighbor whose solar panels are producing excess electricity can now sell to a stranger nearby.
Think Uber. Someone needs a ride. Someone else has a car. The technology allows the two parties to connect. The deal goes through and the passenger is charged while the driver is paid. The company itself owns no vehicles.
The applications in the energy field are just as compelling, says Michael Powers, founding partner at SunPower By Stellar Solar in San Diego: “Solar energy can be deployed more extensively and with peer-to-peer sales, solar energy finds its true value in the marketplace.”
As it stands now, if solar customers have excess power, they sell back to the power companies at pre-determined rates — or at a “net metered” rate set by regulators. There is no incentive for a business or homeowner to invest more in solar panels because their extra kilowatt hours are not sold at market value. But if the software exists to allow that solar power to be sold via auction to someone bidding for it on the Internet, then the producer of that electricity will earn market value for it.
Current methods of tracking and billing renewable energy, Powers says, are an administrative burden — even for utilities. Blockchain technology, however, will record, certify and clear the entire transaction: who produced the power, by what method and to whom it was sold, and for how much.
Energy transactions are fast and easy. There is no central clearinghouse where the information could get stolen. Anyone can participate.
“Right now, solar producers are paid at regulated net metering rates,” Powers told this writer, “which are actually being reduced by regulators and the utility industry and across the U.S. How does that move us towards 100% clean energy? ….