Blockchain is on its way to completely transform the energy sector.
UK-based machine learning startup Verv, however, is taking it one step further. By combining the power of blockchain with artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT, Verv has developed a renewable energy trading platform that improves access to clean and affordable energy.
The company provides a clear use case for blockchain in energy trading. In April this year, it successfully completed the first P2P energy trade in the UK on the blockchain, powering a social housing community in London with solar energy.
The energy trading system in the London community is powered by three main components: the solar panels already installed on 13 of its blocks of flats, the AI-based Verv Smart Hubs, and a battery storage system. The Verv platforms, installed in individual residences within the community, calculate the energy demand profile of each home and determine the solar energy supply in each storage battery. It can then allocate solar power to residents based on their needs.
In the first trade, 1 kWh of solar energy was sent from the solar panels with excess energy on one of the blocks to a flat in another block within the estate, enabling the residents to take full advantage of the available clean energy.
The new data sharing marketplace
Enabling a decentralised market reliant on clean energy and P2P energy trading is not Verv’s only vision for the future of the energy market - the company is also seeking to reshape the future of data sharing.
Through a partnership with blockchain-based data ecosystem Ocean Protocol, the companies aim to empower consumers to take more control of their energy data, how it is used and where it goes. Consumers would also have the opportunity to monetise their data and sell it to utilities and other third parties if they wish in return for money off their energy bills in the form of tokens.
According to Verv CEO and Founder Peter Davies, this marketplace model is especially relevant in the context of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which was introduced in Europe on 25 May 2018. “For the first time, we’re able to legally enforce ownership of consumers’ data, and that enforcement allows them far more control over it. It also gives the consumer the ability to sell and resell their data to those they actually want to sell to,” Davies told Engerati.
“The reason the data marketplace is such a great service enabled by our token, alongside the P2P energy trading side of it, is the fact that it gives consumers another way of generating revenue from their own data in a controlled manner that they have agreed to.”
Though the new data sharing marketplace is very much centred around the consumer, Davies comments that there are multiple benefits to be had on the utility side of the exchange as well, if utilities know how to take full advantage of it. “The data sold by the consumer can be used to look into the market and get the best price for their own energy consumption. They’ll get a list of all the suppliers who are providing energy to that type of customer and how much that costs, so they can do automatic switching.”
As such, from a market competition point of view, it will be highly beneficial for utilities to have such a significant amount of customer data at their disposal, as it can help them have better and more accurate insight into the consumer’s behaviour towards energy, consumption patterns.
For the same reason, it can also help utilities provide improved customer services: “They’ll know what people are looking for and what kind of customers they have,” explains Davies.
The importance of AI
AI is a key feature in the data sharing and energy trading applications of the platforms. “There are multiple use cases of AI in this system,” says Davies.
“The simplest, fundamental one is that we’re basically analysing more energy signals from the home, and using machine learning to work out what appliances are on in the home and how much they cost you. We then add further layers of machine learning on the results of that data, and we can start classifying it and turning into commercially useful data on behalf of the consumer.”
The role of AI is critical not only for a data sharing context and to grant the consumer more control over the data, but it is also key to enabling P2P renewable energy trading in the first place. “Our system actually ended up being the world’s most sophisticated tool for predicting energy consumption in the home,” Davies explains.
“That’s because the Verv Smart Hub doesn’t just analyse your appliances and user behaviour, it’s also able to pull satellite image data about cloud cover and opacity, so it can also do things like predictions on the amount of energy that your solar panels will be able to generate, or how that works with a local battery storage system. It’s a very sophisticated tool for predicting energy consumption, therefore allowing customers to get the best price on the market when it comes to energy trading.”
Lessons from Engerati Meets
At Engerati Meets, Verv will be presenting the detailed use cases of utilising the combined powers of AI, blockchain and IoT to enable P2P renewable energy trading and empower the consumer in the data sharing marketplace. Verv COO Maria McKavanagh will also demonstrate the value of previously untapped consumer data being available for utilities, and how they can adapt to the consumer-centric future of the energy sector.
“I think the whole blockchain revolution is one where the industry is putting the consumer first, and it’s a new way of thinking that instead of these big companies owning every piece of information about you, the consumer can be in charge of the data-sharing process,” says Verv’s Davies.
“The reason GDPR is there is to give the consumer back the control. All of these tools are leading towards a consumer-led environment.”