Blockchain is speeding up energy market disruption, and that’s good thing
How DLT is enabling the emergence of prosumers on smart energy grids and one day will enable energy harvesting.
We are all mostly still just energy consumers today but get ready for change. The convergence of multiple trends is transforming the energy market into a marketplace where most participants will be buyers and sellers. Power along with data and services will start to flow in both directions. Although we’ll all continue to be consumers, many of us will produce and also store energy. As roles change, responsibilities will shift too, impacting existing utility companies whose traditional business models rely on Capex-intensive energy production and one-way distribution. In many markets, there is still variable levels of monopoly.
There’s a parallel here, and maybe some lessons to be learned, from the disruption that the media industry is still reeling from in the radical change from linear TV broadcast to IP-based on-demand, over-the-top content distribution and the rise of new entrants like Netflix. In less than a decade, the DVD-by-post startup has become the most significant content producer and distributor in the world. I am predicting that’ll we’ll all be potential energy producers, but the parallel with media hasn’t materialised, as in the world of content, the much-touted consumer-generated content revolution never indeed emerged (remember that’s what YouTube was all about in the early days). It turns out that, unlike producing solar-powered electricity, making a video that other people want to watch, requires both technical prowess and skill. However, the power has shifted in the content space as consumer loyalty is now permanently challenged with competition just a click away and that will happen in the energy market.
For energy corporations, as their monopolies are eroded, investing in infrastructure alone, is no longer enough. Infrastructure is already starting to become distributed as more and more micro-services appear with multiple small power sources coming from people’s roofs or windmills.
In Brazil, we have co-developed a solution for prosumers to connect to the grid where our tagging technology avoids the need to send an expensive smart meter, and settlement on the blockchain lets our partner EDP enable disruptive business models where individuals can purchase shares in solar farms and benefit from their share of production.
Just like in the content industry, tomorrow’s energy leaders will also have to become agile aggregators.
In their DNA however, energy utilities have always been about Capex. Their traditional business models call for huge investments, recouped over very long periods. I see tomorrow’s leaders as those that manage to transform into more agile Opex-driven operators, at least in the consumer space, as wind, solar and thermal aggregation redefine the market.
A lot of research is going into improving the storage capability of batteries, and some significant improvements are just around the corner. This trend is further accelerating the change creating storage opportunities at smaller scale and enabling people to go off-grid.
Power storage, supply and consumption will require orchestration at a finely grained level. The number of settlement processes will exponentially explode requiring a new technology that avoids the bottleneck and the point of failure of centralised systems. Not only energy but data too will flow in both directions of multiple links. I know of only one way to cost-effectively address this challenge, and as luck would have it, it’s part of RIDDLE&CODE’s core business: Distributed Ledger Technology. Second generation blockchain technology such as IPDB that we use is very light on resource usage and already have the scalability for today’s project. The next generation of ledger technology will have the scalability to address any task.
In the case of a charging station, we are developing for electric cars with Wien Energie, blockchain technology brings strong authentication and secure settlement to an app that uses NFC.
At RIDDLE&CODE’s we are going deeper into what energy distribution world will look like soon. Energy harvesting is a process by which the ambient power, typically dissipated through radio waves, can be used to run very low-powered devices that therefore no longer need batteries. We can enable, for example, more reliable sensors or tag an object with a self-powered device to give them incontrovertible identities, opening the way for new marketplaces. It will, therefore, become cost-effective to aggregate minimal energy sources.
Author: Tom Fuerstner