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Block chain and the energy business

The explosive surge in Bitcoin prices at the end of 2017 brought block-chain technology to the attention of governments and the public…

This new technology is, in effect, an eco- system comprising a secure, digitized but communal and decentralized ledger, recording transactions as they occur in successive blocks. It validates or certifies transactions and conserves inviolable logs which are accessible to all the chain’s members. This new technology is potentially revolutionary. In the not too distant future, block-chain technology could transform services like marine insurance, finance and trading of energy, commodities, manufactured goods and even diamonds.

Energy trading, billing and climate research

Several pilot studies involving small to large-scale energy trading, billing and payment systems are now underway around the world. In New York, neighboring householders are selling power to each other in a block chain provided by technology provider, LO3 Energy. In Australia and New Zealand also, Perth start-up Power Ledger enables neighbors to buy and sell surplus power.
In Europe, a group of energy firms including BP, Wien Energie and Eni Trading & Shipping recently completed a 12-week trial of energy trading facilitated by Canadian block-chain startup BTL. Guy Halford-Thompson, co-founder and CEO of BTL, said in a statement, “having demonstrated the reductions in risk and cost savings that are achievable we now have an opportunity to deliver the first successful block-chain-based application to the energy market.” On a bigger scale, Centrica, Engie and Royal Dutch Shell have joined forces to launch the international block chain, the Energy Web Foundation.

Trials for billing and payments using block-chain are also underway. For example, RWE’s power utility subsidiary Innogy has tested how well block-chain technology can authenticate and manage the billing process for hundreds of autonomous electric-vehicle charging stations in Germany and California. In Germany, the Motionwerks block-chain distribution ledger bill payments system is making traditional payments for electric car charging redundant.

Experiments with block-chain among solar power operators are more diverse. An interesting pilot project, by Electra-seed in Africa, provided over 100 sets of autonomous solar kits forming their own electricity networks, in which trades are managed through block-chains. If viable, Electraseed aims to have provided around 100,000 units by the end of 2018. Some solar power operators have issued their own crypto currency, the solar coin, worth 1 megawatt of electricity. To date around 150,000 megawatt hours of solar energy in over 24 countries have been paid for in solar coins. Members of a solar electric chain project can contribute valuable data for scientific research and climate studies.
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