Blockchain microgrids – enabler of the community energy opportunity

Blockchain transactive energy is emerging as a driver of microgrid development in different geographies.
Published: Mon 08 Jan 2018

Microgrids are all about community, be that a university campus, a housing complex or a group of like minded individuals in a local neighbourhood.

As reinforcement to provide backup in the case of grid failure in a major storm, to maximise the use of local renewable generation or simply to reduce the cost of energy, microgrids are a growing phenomenon in the decentralising energy market.

Blockchain microgrids

With multiple participants in a microgrid, the next obvious requirement is to be able to trade energy both within the community as well as with the broader markets. And this transactive opportunity appears to be emerging as a new driver for the development of microgrids.

Earlier this year blockchain pioneer LO3 Energy launched two blockchain based microgrid demonstrations in Germany. Now its latest venture, which builds in these earlier initiatives, is a partnership with the European power exchange EPEX SPOT to develop solutions connecting local microgrid and wholesale markets using the blockchain technology.

“LO3 Energy and EPEX SPOT are joining forces in order to tackle the challenges of the energy sector, which are of unprecedented dimension,” says Jean-François Conil-Lacoste, Chairman of the Management Board of EPEX SPOT.

“Innovative digital solutions are needed to further serve the market in this industry revolution and to drive forward the energy transition.”

Connecting to wholesale markets

The first realisation of the agreement will involve pilot projects in Europe, with the LO3 trading platform – named Exergy – deployed in community microgrids, according to a statement.

Connecting the microgrid to the wholesale market, microgrid participants will be enabled to obtain greater value for their distributed energy resources through increased flexibility, transparent price signals and other value streams such as predictive analytics, the statement continues.

For example, prosumers can feed excess electricity from their solar panels back into the grid and consumers can purchase shortfalls at a market price and optimise their energy consumption using batteries.

All market participants will benefit from market reference prices and exchange services, and from further market opportunities involving clean energy, the statement adds.

In a blog posting, LO3 CEO Lawrence Orsini writes that the community microgrids will be set up next year.

Participants will then be able to use the Exergy platform to buy and sell energy not only peer-to-peer but also at wholesale prices across borders to anyone in the EPEX SPOT network.

EPEX SPOT and its affiliates operate short-term electricity markets in eight countries in Europe, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland and UK.

With its efforts towards the development of a pan-European power market, EPEX SPOT is well placed to test the potential of blockchain for the energy sector and whether it can live up to its promise

Distributed renewable energy markets

Australian startup Power Ledger which pioneered peer-to-peer trading in that country, also has been expanding its interests into microgrids.

Recently Power Ledger entered into an agreement with the IT company Tech Mahindra to trial microgrid as a service in India.

Subsequently Power Ledger has cemented further agreements to support the development of renewable energy markets in microgrids in both Europe and Thailand.

In Europe, Power Ledger has joined with the Liechtenstein Institute for Strategic Development (LISD) to provide marketing, planning and development of the metering, market settlement and reconciliation components of microgrids for the region. LISD will promote and develop the microgrids and other trading uses based on renewable energy and storage systems.

In Thailand Power Ledger is partnering with the government backed renewable energy developer BCPG on the formation of a microgrid development in Bangkok which will see between 6-10 multi-storey apartment buildings trading between 1-2MW of embedded solar generation.

In what is believed to be a southeast Asian first, the Power Ledger energy-trading platform will enable building managers to trade renewable energy from solar panels installed on each building with autonomous financial settlement enabled via the use of a secure banking interface.

“Innovation is at the heart of BCPG,” says company President, Bundit.

“Our project covers diverse groups of participants, from housing units to malls, schools, hospitals, industrial estates, to name a few.”

Sapianchai adds that the initiative should help reduce the government’s investment in building large-scale power plants to meet the growing demand for electricity while at the same time offering consumers greater choice in the form of peer-to-peer energy trading.

With blockchain still very much in the early stages, these projects should contribute to the growing knowledge of its application for energy trading.

And the next year should give an indication of the significance of the blockchain transactive energy opportunity.