A small but growing number of Blockchain-driven startups are attempting to shake the foundations of the power and energy industry from the ground up in a bid that may wind up completely restructuring the way energy and power are produced, distributed and consumed. Having raised pre-seed capital, the U.K.’s Electron is trying to do the same, but from the top-down.
Electron is working with U.K. gas and electricity market stakeholders, including market regulator Ofgem, in a bid to convince them of the advantages and benefits to be gained from migrating from a hodgepodge of systems currently used to track ownership and operation of grid assets, customer billing, accounts and the like to an open, yet all but incorruptible distributed online ledger and transaction system, such as its Ethereum Blockchain-based platform.
In addition to being more efficient and cost-effective, Electron contends doing so would unleash industry innovation and significantly enhance its ability to add and mange intermittent, inflexible renewable generation, new smart grid technologies, demand-side response (DR) programs, and regulatory changes aimed at realizing improving customer services.
Simulating activity for 53 million electricity supply points
“There are 53 million supply points in the United Kingdom and, with the move to smart metering, the quantities of data being collected, are huge. Electron are at the forefront of decentralized application developments designed to work with data on this scale,” Electron’s executive team highlights.
Electron has simulated how its shared industry-wide distributed ledger would work by populating its demo platform with streaming data from all 53 million dynamic grid nodes and 60 electricity suppliers. Company execs are using the demo platform as they seek to convince industry stakeholders to adopt an open, distributed model in building a common, shared information and communications platform as opposed to a centralized one operated by a single administrative authority.
Rather than being carried out by small groups of industry insiders, the rules governing administration of the power/energy industry platform would be elaborated and incorporated in Ethereum-based smart contracts custom designed by market and industry stakeholders, including consumers, and carried out in automated, decentralized fashion. In theory, that would greatly improve system reliability and remove human error and bias from transaction management and record-keeping processes, as well as all but assure they could not be corrupted, say with fraudulent transactions, or compromised by malicious agents, e.g. cyber-attackers.
Good reasons for adoption
“By using secure, powerful smart contracts that run exactly as programmed to deliver guaranteed functionality to energy market participants without interference or downtime, we are building the fabric for the next generation energy market,” Electron’s executive team states.
Adopting an open Blockchain-based distributed ledger would also convey the benefits of greater economies of scale and much more in the way of flexibility for industry participants and regulators to adapt as technology, industry conditions, and consumer and society’s needs change, they add.
Blockchain distributed ledgers are ideally suited for recording and storing transactions and serving as market and industry-wide registrars for asset ownership, Electron co-founder Paul Ellis told TechCrunch.
“These are good reasons to have blockchains. They’re very cost effective. You don’t require third party intermediaries to operate these shared platforms,” he was quoted as saying. “A blockchain provides a way to remove the cost inefficiencies and the barriers to innovation that a central service provider would necessarily bring.”
Andrew is a well seasoned and traveled freelance reporter and editor, covering the the nexus where new energy technology, markets, ecosystems and political economy intersect and overlap.