Blockchain renewable tracing

Blockchain for smart utilities and cities

Blockchain is being demonstrated in energy and smart city projects across the world.
Published: Mon 21 Jan 2019

While blockchain isn’t today attracting the same hype as in the past and some argue about its potential, new projects and developments point the way to securing its role as a technology that is here to stay both in the energy sector and more widely.

New use cases, platforms and standards are some of the areas in which advancements are being made by utilities and cities as part of ‘smart’ initiatives as they seek to move the technology from pilot to commercial use.

Among these are guarantees of the origin of renewable energies, which are crucial for buyers, particularly when long term power purchase agreements are involved in the corporate market.

Recognising this, Spanish energy companies Iberdrola and Acciona have been developing this use case in the local market.

Tracing renewable electricity

In a January statement Iberdrola said that a project with the financial entity Kutxabank had demonstrated that the supply of energy could be tracked in real time on the blockchain from the generation assets to the points of consumption. These were respectively two wind farms and a hydroelectric plant in different regions of Spain and the headquarters of Kutxabank in the Basque Country and Cajasur in Córdoba.

“This technology provides efficiency, flexibility, transparency and savings to the guarantees of origin process,” the company said in the statement. “This innovation shows us that it is a crucial catalyst in the process of decarbonising the economy and incentivises the production and consumption of 100% renewable energy.”

For its part Acciona has been undertaking trials on the traceability of renewable generation from five wind and hydro facilities in Spain to its supply to four corporate clients in Portugal. Now the company plans, as part of this Greenchain project, to expand the use of the technology to its customers worldwide.

Acciona, working with the local IT startup FlexiDAO, intends to start in countries that do not have consolidated renewable energy certification systems, including Mexico and Chile and others in Latin America where the company has a strong presence.

“Tracing the renewable origin of energy is an ever-increasing demand and blockchain technology can facilitate this service considerably to clients in any part of the world,” comments Belén Linares, Director of Innovation of Acciona Energía. “We are very pleased to take this first step along a route that will surely set the trend over the next few years.”

Notably both Iberdrola’s and Acciona’s initiatives are using the Energy Web Foundation’s Energy Web blockchain platform, which is developed as a standard platform for the sector.

Acciona details advantages of the blockchain system to include simplicity of its integration with data systems, both of Acciona itself and end customers, ease of access and scalability and the complete security and privacy of data that blockchain ensures.

Smart city blockchain platform

Dubai has made no secret of its intention to have the first blockchain powered government, with what is claimed as the world’s first city blockchain strategy as part of its Smart Dubai initiative.

Among the latest moves to drive this strategy forward, Smart Dubai and IBM have launched the Dubai Blockchain Platform providing blockchain as-a-service. Delivered through an IBM Cloud environment and built locally in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the enterprise-ready platform is intended to serve as a stepping stone for organisations within the UAE and globally to transition their blockchain testing and development into full production. It will also digitise applicable government processes and citizen services.

As part of the Dubai Blockchain Strategy, which envisions the emirate becoming a paperless government by 2021, blockchain applications have been launched by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) and other government entities across sectors including roads and transport, healthcare and education. Over time these should be migrated to the platform.

As an example of the expected benefits the Dubai Pay Blockchain Settlement and Reconciliation System is expected to reduce the time to reconcile and settle payment with other government entities, banks and financial institutions from approximately 45 days to real time. 

Blockchain standards

Dubai is of course not the only city to look to blockchain and New York is another. The city has elected to adopt the Berlin-based MXC Foundation’s Internet of Things smart city standard MXProtocol for blockchain and LPWAN (low power wide area network) communications.

MatchX, a LPWAN solution provider, and data management platform provider Citisense are partnering to roll out a LPWAN-based solution comprising sensors and gateways for tracking usage and improving waste management strategies in the city. The project is piloting in business improvement districts before scaling to other areas.

Though specific energy applications are not envisaged in the pilot phase, once in place the solution could provide the foundation for building out a range of use cases leveraging locational and map-based data on for example properties or assets in public spaces.

“These devices hold the key to successful smart city implementation through intelligent use of public data,” says Starling Childs, CEO of Citisense.