Utility firms around the world are collaborating with blockchain startups to test the potential of blockchain technology in peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading.
As the name suggests P2P energy trading is the trading of energy between “peers”. People generating energy (the concept of “prosumers”) in their homes, offices etc. can sell/share their excess energy to peers.
Last year, energy giants including Centrica, Engie, Royal Dutch Shell, Sempra Energy, SP Group, and Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), joined forces to support the Energy Web Foundation (EWF), a non-profit organization that aims to accelerate the commercial deployment of blockchain technology in the energy sector. In February 2018, 27 more organizations including the likes of Swisspower, E.ON, Eandis and others, joined the initiative.
Several energy trading firms have embarked on blockchain projects focused on P2P energy with startups and software companies, such as Ponton, LO3 Energy, and Power Ledger:
Founded in 2001, Ponton is a software company providing standard-based solutions for B2B processes in the energy industry.
In May 2017, 23 European energy trading firms, including Vattenfall, BKW, Eneco, Centrica, Energie AG, Engie, and others, teamed up to conduct P2P trading in the wholesale energy market using innovative blockchain technology. The total number of companies taking part in the initiative grew to 39 as of November 2017.
The P2P energy trading will take place on an enhanced Enerchain framework. Developed by Ponton, Enerchain is a blockchain-based application which allows trading organisations to anonymously send orders to a decentralised orderbook which can be hit by other trading organisations. All this is done P2P without a central marketplace operated by a third party.
Founded in 2012, LO3 Energy is a New York-based company building a platform to enable decentralized business models and innovative technologies related to energy, cleantech and utility systems. The company raised $5.8 million in a funding round in November 2017 led by Braemar Energy Ventures and Centrica. It is involved in two projects – one with global technology powerhouse Siemens AG and the other with British multinational energy and services company Centrica:
- In November 2016, Siemens AG partnered with LO3 Energy to jointly develop microgrids that enable local energy trading based on blockchain technology. The microgrid, which was planned for Brooklyn, actually started as a pilot project of LO3 Energy. The project marked the first time that a microgrid control solution from Siemens was combined with the P2P trading platform from LO3 Energy known as TransActive Grid.
- In May 2018, Centrica teamed up with LO3 to test blockchain potential in P2P energy trading. The project will see the roll out of the technology in Centrica’s Local Energy Market (LEM) – a £19 million programme that aims to explore flexible, smart energy solutions.
Australia blockchain startup Power Ledger has been spearheading a number of initiatives to provide individuals and communities with access to electricity that is low-cost, reliable, and renewable.
The company was founded in May 2016 and in the same year, it started testing a blockchain solution that enabled people in Perth and South-West to buy, sell or swap excess solar electricity with anyone connected to the Western Power network without mediators.
Power Ledger raised $34 million in an initial coin offering (ICO) last October. It is also involved in a blockchain-powered distributed energy and water systems project in the City of Fremantle which received $8 million grant from the Australian government.
In November 2018, Power Ledger announced the deployment of its P2P renewable energy trading platform at licensed retail electric provider American PowerNet’s headquarters in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania.
Since its inception, the company has entered into partnerships with a number of utility giants around the world and is working with them to help them tap into the potential of blockchain technology. This includes trialing a P2P energy trading platform with Australian energy retailer Origin; bringing high-value model of distributed renewable energy markets to Europe in collaboration with the Liechtenstein Institute for Strategic Development (LISD); agreement with Thai-Government backed renewable energy developer BCPG ; partnership with Greenwood Solutions to bring renewable energy trading to Melbourne; collaboration with Japanese utility giant Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) to test P2P renewable energy trading in Japan; and many others.
More recently, Australian commercial real estate firm Vicinity Centres, in partnership with Power Ledger, announced a blockchain trial aimed at facilitating its shopping centres to supply energy to neighboring communities who connect to its secure power network.
Other notable efforts include:
International Energy Research Centre (IERC)
In March 2018, the International Energy Research Centre (IERC), a collaborative programme of research and innovation in integrated sustainable energy system technologies, launched a new project EnerPort that aims to accelerate P2P energy trading in Ireland using blockchain technology. Launched in partnership with SFI’s INSIGHT Centre at NUI Galway, the project involves a number of indigenous companies including Systemlink Technologies, MSemicon, and Verbatm. The objective is to understand and explore how cutting-edge technologies, such as blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT), provide a platform that enables companies and consumers to trade on a regional and even national scale.
The consortium will look into how blockchain technology can be used for energy trading, as well as its potential to reward users for saving energy as well as managing small scale transactions between neighbours who generate electricity.
Australian Renewable Energy Agency
In May 2017, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) announced its support to a blockchain trial that aims to enable households and business to trade or share power with one-another. Led by AGL Energy Limited (AGL), in partnership with IBM Australia and distributed energy market advisors Marchment Hill Consulting, the project involves evaluating a virtual trial at Melbourne homes with a mix of solar panels, batteries to store electricity, and ‘smart’ air conditioning. IBM will focus on blockchain applicability to recognising, authenticating and settling energy trading, while Marchment Hill will provide market analysis.
Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO)
In November 2018, Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO) announced a project focused on building a future microgrid using blockchain technology. The ‘KEPCO Open Micro Grid Project’ seeks to improve the microgrid by integrating digital technology such as energy solutions and blockchain with existing microgrid system.
In an email to TokenPost in October 2018, South Korean telecom giant KT said that it has completed its PoC (proof of concept) for a blockchain-based transaction system in energy trading.
“It will provide reliable means of settlement and verification for small-scale generators participating in energy trading. Taking advantage of AI-based IoT (Internet of Things) technology, the system enables real-time data acquisition on power generation and blockchain-based smart contracts. That will facilitate autonomous contract signing when predetermined terms and conditions are met and thereby reduce the time needed for adjustment of fares,” KT said, adding that the commercialization of the system will begin next year.
KT further said that it is nearing the completion of a blockchain-based smart DR (demand response) system that enables autonomous B2B (business-to-business) energy transactions.
“We plan to finish by the end of this year and commercialize the DR system in the second half of next year. In a similar way, we plan to apply our blockchain technology to carbon emissions trading and EV (electric vehicle) charging,” it added.