TenneT, Sonnen Bring Blockchain Grid To Energy Customers

On November 2, the transmission system operator TenneT, which serves 41 million energy customers in Germany and the Netherlands, launched into the pilot stage of its collaboration with residential energy storage firm sonnen, making its blockchain-based energy storage and distribution system available to clients. The pilot follows a trial of the system and is “expected to continue until mid 2018,” according to a press release on TenneT’s website.

A blockchain solution developed by IBM links TenneT’s grid to sonnen’s energy storage systems, which are located on-site in customers’ homes, forming a network of the devices that is capable of relieving bottlenecks in energy transmission by holding onto electricity when demand is low and releasing it during peak consumption times. With the launch of the pilot, TenneT is slated to begin integrating the storage devices, operated by sonnen e-Services, into the blockchain-mediated network.

Urban Keussen, chairman of the board of TenneT TSO GmbH, explained that, “Ultimately, this helps limit the use of expensive curtailment of wind turbines which is needed to stabilize the grid.” The press release projects that the new system will reduce the need for other curtailment mechanisms as well, including the release of “grid reserve” power, saving customers money. Additionally, sonnen clients can rent storage capacity on their home devices in exchange for free energy, an arrangement that the press release touts as a win-win for the company, which is able to more efficiently allocate stored electricity, and for customers, who save money.

A May 2017 report by ETHNews explained that the sonnen trial would take place in Germany, while the Dutch green energy firm Vandebron would act as a TenneT’s partner during a similar trial in the Netherlands, which used car batteries.

TenneT is not the only organization working to apply blockchain technology to challenges involving energy grids. The Energy Web Foundation, comprised of a variety of power players in the energy field, is also exploring solutions in this area. In September 2017, the US Department of Energy awarded money to the blockchain firm Guardtime, as well as the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and other partners, to help them “develop blockchain cybersecurity technology to help secure distributed energy resources at the grid’s edge.” Also in 2017, the software company ConsenSys introduced an Ethereum-based electricity distribution system called Grid+ that aims to enable users to settle payments in real time and optimize their energy usage.