Big energy backs global blockchain

Announced on May 8, 2017, big energy players Centrica plc, Elia, Engie, Royal Dutch Shell plc, Sempra Energy, SP Group, Statoil ASA, Stedin, TWL (Technical Works Ludwigshafen AG), and Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) are working together to support the Energy Web Foundation (EWF), a commercial blockchain deployment acceleration non-profit organization. The EWF, which was founded in February of 2017 by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and Grid Singularity, will develop global blockchain technology for energy grids.

The energy sector’s support allowed the EWF to secure $2.5 million during the first funding round.

The EWF aims to reduce the transaction costs associated with centralized ledgers by using blockchain technology to generate a single logical copy, eliminating the necessity for reconciliation and settlement. The capability of blockchain technology to perform multiple transactions simultaneously, often referred to as an 'atomic swap,' lends itself well to the application of grid maintenance. According to EWF’s announcement, blockchain technology allows for the capability of millions of devices to "transact with each other at the distribution edge while providing support to utilities and grid operators to integrate more utility-scale variable renewable energy capacity at much lower cost."

Currently, the Kovan test-network can perform up to 1,000 transactions per second (TPS). Ewald Hesse, chief executive of Grid Singularity, however, said that, by embedding further state channel technology, this number can be increased significantly: "We intend for our architecture to facilitate scaling to 1 million tps over the next several years.”

Hervé Touati, a managing director at RMI and president of EWF, believes that the next hurdle to overcome is automation:

"The main challenge of the electricity sector in the 21st Century is to integrate more renewable energy into the grid in a cost-effective fashion in a context of largely flat or diminishing demand. The only way we know how to do this is by automating the demand side—by allowing many more participants in the grid. That means automation at the distribution edge, and integration of this automation with wholesale markets."

Touati further said that blockchain technology will be integral for the future, as it possesses intrinsic value from a cybersecurity standpoint. He said, "Blockchain will not be the only building block of the 21st Century grid, but it will most likely be a key building block. It also provides much higher levels of cybersecurity essentially for free—which addresses, as a by-product, one of the key concerns of utility executives when it comes to distributed energy resources.”

Grid Singularity is an Austria-based blockchain technology developer that provides energy data analysis and benchmarking, smart grid management, and energy trade validation. To bring the most advanced blockchain technology, Grid Singularity is working with Parity Technologies, which has developed software that supports a great deal of the Ethereum network.

RMI was founded in 1982 and has offices in Colorado, New York, Washington, DC, and Beijing. RMI enables cost effective shifts to renewable resources by putting into focus community engagement, carbon footprints, and clean energy solutions.

With EWF’s recent developments, blockchain infrastructure stands to streamline energy grids in the future, a concept already being explored by TenneT, as well as, by a partnership between LO3 Energy and Siemens.

Jeremy Nation is a writer living in Los Angeles with interests in technology, human rights, and cuisine. He is a full time staff writer for ETHNews and holds value in Ether.
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