Power Ledger’s blockchain goes commercial

Peer-to-peer renewables trading on the blockchain is set to start being commercialised in Melbourne, Australia.
Published: Wed 09 May 2018

Western Australia-based blockchain startup Power Ledger, which has pioneered the technology in the Antipodes, is now gearing up for its first commercial deployment – and one of the first such commercial implementations in the energy sector globally.

Partnering with the energy business Greenwood Solutions, the companies intend to bring peer-to-peer renewable energy trading to residents in apartments and housing community units in the east Melbourne suburb of Burwood.

Greenwood Solutions, which has initiated the move, will install solar PV across the selected so-called ‘strata units’, while Power Ledger’s blockchain platform will distribute the energy behind the meter.

“Being able to experience our customers’ first-hand frustration on the complexity of electrical billing, quickly made us realise that change was needed,” says Greenwood Solutions Director, Eddie Greco. “Renewables and blockchain have been a strong passion of mine over a number of years. It was only a matter of time before the synergy between the two was found.”

Commercialising energy blockchain

With the number of blockchain projects now believed to be numbering well over a hundred in the energy sector globally and growing almost daily, the next step is to move up from pilot to commercial operations in order to demonstrate the scalability and sustainability of the technology in real world operations.

Power Ledger launched its first pilot in August 2016 involving 20 participants in a retirement village. Subsequently the company has been expanding its activities including projects with Australian energy retailer Origin Energy, Tasmanian renewable company Nest Energy and New Zealand’s Vector.

A recent new local initiative Power Ledger is involved in is to assess how blockchain can be used to integrate distributed energy and water systems in cities. The project, taking place in the City of Fremantle, is supported from the national government’s Smart Cities and Suburbs Programme and is supported by the Australian Energy Market Operator and the power corporation Western Power.

Power Ledger also has been expanding internationally with partners in India and Thailand and most recently, with the clean energy not-for-profit Helpanswers in the United States. Potential projects identified to date will cover over 50MW solar and 50MWh energy storage, beginning in top renewable markets including Texas, Chicago to Washington, New York, California and New England.

Commenting on the Melbourne project, Jemma Green, Co-founder and Chair of Power Ledger, told Engerati that it will launch in four three-bedroom homes with the aim to scale it up to other similar sites. The site is an embedded network installation, with each unit effectively smart sub-metered behind a master meter – the only requirement for implementation of the Power Ledger platform.

“Greenwood Solutions has set up the project and will cover the cost of the installation so that customers benefit as the end users,” Green explains. “The structure they have chosen will ensure savings are passed back to the body corporate.”

Blockchain platforms

While Power Ledger’s platform has been developed around a specific use case, other general platforms are effectively in or close to commercial operations.

One such platform being applied in commercial applications is IBM’s Hyperledger-based open source blockchain, which is being implemented across various industries. In the energy sector the transmission system operator TenneT is piloting the technology in two projects on electric vehicles and renewables and storage integration in Germany and the Netherlands.

Another is the proprietary Interbit offering from Canada’s BTL Group. The company is formally releasing the platform and anticipates that it will become commercially available shortly thereafter, following security audit and performance testing. In the first phase, a gas trading pilot was run with Austria’s Wien Energie and BP among other projects. The second phase currently under way with four oil and gas supermajors and five energy traders aims to build out the platform, which has been named OneOffice, to deliver gas trading reconciliation through to settlement and delivery of trades.

The third platform that can be mentioned here is German IT specialist Ponton’s Enerchain. The technology was developed around wholesale energy trading and has grown to involve almost 40 European utilities and oil majors. According to Managing Director Michael Merz in an interview with Reuters, utilities will start to use the technology for direct trades with one another within months. Merz indicated that a legal entity is being established to pool budgets.