By now, few can be unaware of the interest and hype around transactive energy and blockchain and the continuing stream of new entrants touting local trading and other use cases for the changing energy sector.
Despite this pace of activity – and it is replicated in other sectors such as banking and healthcare – there is still work ongoing by organisations such as the Energy Web Foundation among others on aspects such as speed and scalability. Real-time capability and the potential to deploy the technology across a large utility or smart city customer base will be key to mainstream implementation in the energy sector.
Another issue of importance for the sector is to establish the use cases for which blockchain is most suitable, as compared with other technologies.
“To my knowledge no-one has all the answers right now,” technology evangelist Kevin O’Donovan told Engerati in a round up interview at the first Engerati Meet on Transactive Energy.
Energy market model
O’Donovan, who was a facilitator at the event, explained that the starting point for transactive energy is the need for a market model, such as is under development in Europe with the Clean Energy Package. From this, the roles and interactions of the various players can be defined.
“Then the players can go off and select a technology to make that happen and some will choose one and some will choose another – it’s like a car, and which car do you buy? There probably will be places that blockchain can be used as it matures and there are places where something else could be used, such as a database or centralised server.”
He also notes a point raised by a distribution system operator representative that these technologies are being applied to a physical world, in the form of the power grid.
“The electricity grid is governed by the laws of physics and someone still has to run that physical grid, so it’s going to be interesting to see how blockchain interacts with that world, because it will have to. The energy industry is complex and there are lots of bits and pieces that have to fit together.”
While blockchain developments are taking place both in the numerous consortia that have been established as well as in the many pilots, O’Donovan highlights the need for people from all sections of the sector – distribution, transmission, retailers, consumer experts, economists, etc. – to come together to interact and bring their perspective in advancing greater understanding of the role and potential of blockchain.
“It’s about networking and learning – it’s just a big jigsaw.”