Wien Energie gets on the blockchain

Austria’s largest utility company, Wien Energie, has launched a pilot to test blockchain for gas trading.
Published: Wed 22 Feb 2017

So far blockchain is being pioneered as a potential platform for energy trading at the peer-to-peer and community levels. But Austria’s largest regional utility, Wien Energie, is now taking the concept a step further with a pilot that envisages gas trading at the international level.

In partnership with the Canadian blockchain startup BTL Group, Wien Energie is undertaking a three month pilot “to build up know-how in the blockchain area with our partners and test the new technology for its opportunities and benefits,” says Peter Gönitzer, Managing Director of Wien Energie in a statement.

“We also want to analyse how new business models can result from this. Through different experimental arrangements with the technology, new insights into the use of blockchain in the energy business will be gained and possible process optimisation and cost savings will be explored.”

The pilot is also supported by global consultancy firm EY, which will evaluate the solution.

Interbit trading platform

Unlike the majority of energy sector blockchain initiatives, such as LO3 Energy’s Transactive Grid on the Brooklyn microgrid in New York and Electron’s meter registration platform in UK, which are based on the open source Ethereum blockchain platform, BTL’s platform, named Interbit, is a proprietary “blockchain based interbank payment network and settlement and asset trading solution.”

The solution was designed from the ground up with enterprise clients in mind, according to BTL’s website, which states: “Interbit is an open, multi-chain, asset settlement platform with a suite of APIs and smart contracts that allow businesses from across the world to provide global access to fast, secure, and auditable financial and asset trading services.”

BTL’s entry to the energy space occurred last year, when the company was selected by EY to participate in the Startup Challenge 2016, which was focused on building prototype blockchain solutions for energy trading as well as digital rights management.

That activity resulted in the development of an advanced ETRM (Energy Trading Risk Management) application. In January BTL reported the completion of a pilot project with a “leading, global energy company”, including the development of “internal use cases for blockchain solutions in the client’s oil and energy trading division.”

According to a statement from BTL, the goal of the project with Wien Energie is to demonstrate how the Interbit technology can significantly drive down costs associated with energy trading.

“The experience and expertise we expect to acquire from this pilot will be in addition to the knowledge we have obtained from our past work with leading energy companies,” says Guy Halford-Thompson, CEO and co-founder of BTL. “By commencing this project we are one step closer to live application of Interbit in the energy sector.”

Other sectors on which BTL is focusing are finance and gaming.

Wien Energie blockchain - energy trading

With this and the other blockchain developments in the energy sector it is clear that the technology has great potential in the market.

"The energy industry should actively deal with blockchain technology,” says Andreas Freitag, Manager at EY Austria. “The impact on existing processes and markets could be enormous. Now is a good time to test the technology and adjust the company to the upcoming changes. This project will help the energy industry to get to know the technology and assess its future potential even better."

Wien Energie’s Chairman, Michael Strebl adds that blockchain technology is a further digitisation trend in the energy industry. “As Austria’s largest energy service provider, we want to actively make use of the technology and its opportunities for our customers and us.”

Wien Energie supplies electricity, natural gas and heat to more than two million people and around 0.23m commercial and industrial and other customers in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland.

The pilot project is expected to run from March to May 2017, after which further commercial strategies will be assessed.

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