For blockchain to become widespread in the energy sector a key factor is its scalability up to tens and even the hundreds of thousands of customers of the larger utilities.
So far, most blockchain projects have been small scale but that is set to change with a new project from the innovative Australian start-up Power Ledger. In partnership with Japanese solar energy installer and provider Sharing Energy Co. Ltd, Power Ledger’s peer-to-peer platform is being deployed to track renewable energy consumption from an initial 100 solar rooftop customers across three of the country’s nine regions. The aim is to scale it up to over 55,000 rooftops within just two years, by the end of 2020, with plans to sell to consumers via interested third parties or following Sharing’s procurement of a retail license.
“This partnership is an exciting example of how our blockchain technology can make visions of implementing scalable, renewable energy solutions a reality for partners and communities worldwide,” comments Power Ledger Chairman and co-founder Dr Jemma Green.
Real-time data monitoring
Power Ledger will initially provide near real-time usage data to Sharing. From November onwards, Sharing plans to draw on real-time data from existing smart meters to facilitate the electricity trading between sellers and buyers using the blockchain platform.
The initiative is expected to verify the feasibility and scalability of peer-to-peer energy trading in Japan. In addition, Sharing Energy intends to evaluate the energy transaction data in order to more effectively utilise renewable energy within multi-tenant buildings such as apartment blocks and businesses.
With the proposed cuts to Japan’s feed-in-tariff programme, new innovative initiatives are anticipated to maintain the momentum towards renewables in that country. With land availability a limiting factor in utility scale projects, rooftops are an obvious target for future growth.
Blockchain in Japan
Japan is no stranger to blockchain and utilities are actively pursuing its development.
Power Ledger has been working on another project there with the country’s biggest privately-owned electricity retailer, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO), to develop a virtual power plant model utilising energy storage for excess solar generation.
The country’s largest utility Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) is a founder member of the Energy Web Foundation developing an industry specific platform and has invested in the blockchain start-ups Conjoule in Germany and Electron in UK. TEPCO also is investigating blockchain with Grid+ which is developing the blockchain enabled energy retailer concept.
Singapore’s Electrify Asia, which has developed a peer-to-peer platform and accompanying PowerPod device to measure and execute the trades, also has received support from TEPCO and in a partnership with TAKE Energy Corporation is trialling its platform in the Kyushu region of Japan.
“We are excited to explore and obtain additional know-how on blockchain that has the potential to significantly impact the energy market,” said Shin-ichiro Kengaku, Managing Executive Officer and Chief of Global Innovation and Investments at TEPCO at the time of the Electron investment. “We believe it is very important to continuously seek new opportunities and create new value for society.”
Peer-to-peer energy trading
Following the launch of its first projects in western Australia in 2016, Power Ledger has established itself among the leaders in blockchain in the energy sector with a growing portfolio of projects under way in various parts of the world. In addition to its native Australia and Japan, these are in New Zealand, Thailand, India and the US.
Among the latest of the projects is a novel trial with Australian property retailer Vicinity Centres, to manage the energy use in its shopping centres currently being fitted with rooftop solar and in the future, to trade energy to neighbouring communities.
A similar trial is under way in the US, with the retail electric provider American PowerNet to trade energy from rooftop solar and carports at its Wyomissing, PA headquarters with customers connected to its office park.
This latter project is the latest to emerge from a February 2018 partnership with the US-based not-for-profit Clean Energy Blockchain Network. The partnership holds the promise of “hundreds of potential projects” covering over 50MW solar and 50MWh energy storage in top renewable markets including Texas, Chicago-Washington, New York, California and New England.
Power Ledger also is planning an asset germination event token through which individuals and others can invest into renewable initiatives. Such schemes have been pioneered by Sun Exchange in South Africa among others and Power Ledger bills it as a “world-first regulated crypto energy offering”. Full details are to come but Power Ledger’s Managing Director David Martin describes it as “designed to be simple and transparent”.