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Decentralization: Cryptocurrencies and Solar Energy

Humanitarian Blockchain

a series

   Part 5: Decentralization: Cryptocurrencies and Solar Energy

Rural Africa has sun in abundance, but many across the continent are without electricity, impacting on their access to basic human rights such as health, education, and security. Economic development is strangled and breaking out of poverty is all but impossible without it. More than 1 billion people on the planet suffer from this dilemma. Bitcoin News examines how cryptocurrency together with blockchain is being utilized across the globe by a handful of companies in an attempt to deal with this problem.

Earlier this year, Sun Exchange, a solar micro-leasing marketplace, linked with rural mini-grid solutions provider AfricaPowerhive to create a solution which would harness the crypto-economy in the quest for universal energy access for all.

Sun Exchange SUNEX digital rewards tokens create the funds for building solar-powered rural electrification mini-grid projects for the sub-Saharan African region. Powerhive benefits from funds generated from the sale of Sun Exchange’s SUNEX rewards tokens by public sale. The project also allows for the solar panels used to be sold off later to Sun Exchange members who will, in turn, own the cells used in the projects and subsequently profit from a sustained period of “solar-powered money”. Sun Exchange founder and CEO Abraham Cambridge explains why:

“Together, we are working towards a world where no one is forced to cook with unsafe kerosene or wood-burning stoves, no child has to worry about how they will study after dark, and lack of energy access ceases to propel cycles of poverty.”

The project will raise in the region of USD 23 million as capital and finance 150 new projects offering 175,000 people electricity. Powerhive has other projects underway in Africa, such as its Kuku Poa initiative which uses solar power for chicken incubation. Powerhive founder and CEO Christopher Hornor explained that the crypto-community is not simply in it for financial gain and is made up of “inspired individuals” who support crypto projects such as this that clearly work towards reducing global inequality and making a significant climatic impact.

Cryptocurrency and solar energy can be a perfect match; complimentary in the sense that they both represent their own interpretations of decentralization; one in the form of money, and the other in the form of energy. SolarCoin is an example of this match with its 97.5 billion non-circulation SolarCoins created to be granted to energy producers up until the year 2054.

As SolarCoin explains, “in the Middle East today it is two times cheaper to produce a unit of power with solar energy than with fossil fuel sources”. The company’s goal is to create more solar electricity by rewarding those who generate it, reducing both the cost and payback time of solar installation.

The SolarCoin Foundation issues SolarCoins directly into claimant’s wallets at a rate of 1 SolarCoin per 1 MWh of electricity produced. Claimants can then save, exchange, or spend their SolarCoins as they wish, and may receive ongoing grants. This year, Sun Exchange in South Africa, Solar View in Brazil, and Solar Gain in Chile have all joined the SolarCoin Affiliate programme, and the foundation itself is now a member of the Climate Chain Coalition for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Also just recently MySolarPay has joined the SolarCoin Affiliate Network to help increase Solar adoption in Australia. The current circulating supply of SolarCoin stands at 47,757,794 SLR.

Bitlumens based in Zug, Switzerland, is another company making a difference on the solar energy stage. It states that it can… “offer a peer to peer platform where users adopt off-grid Solar systems to reduce carbon emissions and get access to lighting and water in places where there is no power grid.”

Bitlumens has a unique approach and is there in the field transforming lives and creating confidence amongst those in local communities to strive for a better quality of life. Working in rural Latin America it is attempting to remove the dependence on kerosene and wood, and replacing these with affordable clean energy options. The company website describes some of the problems the company is addressing:

“A single kerosene lamp emits over 100 kg of CO2 per year when used four hours a day. Globally, burning kerosene for lighting generated 240 million tons of CO2 equivalent a year, around 0.5% of global emissions. In fact, just kerosene lamps replaced in Africa and Asia with solar panels saved 1.4 million tons of CO2 equivalent in 2014 alone.  Moreover, on a general basis, burning 20 kg wood during one day emits about 200 grams of PM2.5, this equals smoking 10,000 cigarettes”

Women in the programme lease Bitlumens hardware and pay in installments using BLS tokens, allowing them to build a credit score. Family members are also able to buy tokens which they can then send to family to cover the costs to run equipment, covering associated water and electricity bills. Bitlumens points out that “We also quantify carbon mitigation and particulate matter reduction in each household to allow women to become carbon credit issuers at a later stage.”

The company also provides solar energy to remote villages replacing traditionally used fuels such as biomass, thus reducing farmers costs, in some cases enabling them to recruit labor as a result of the savings made on replacing unsustainable and often harmful fuel with Bitlumens supplied solar energy.

Kevin Treco, an associate director at the Carbon Trust, an environmental consultancy, sees blockchain-based technologies significantly changing the energy use in countries striving to decentralize power and boost renewable sources. “They have faster-growing energy needs… and a more accommodating legal and regulatory environment towards such innovations,” he said.

The United Nations Development Programme has suggested that if such crypto-funded schemes were successful, they could revolutionize renewable energy markets in Eastern Europe and Asia.

Technology supplying cheaper and more sustainable energy options to those in need using blockchain and cryptocurrency may be in its infancy, but it is clearly beginning to get support to where it is most needed, as companies begin to see both its humanitarian and ecological value.

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Chilean MPs Bring Blockchain Resolution to Parliament

Two members of the Chilean government put forth a blockchain adoption resolution Thursday. It is currently being reviewed by the lower house of the country’s parliament, Camara de Diputados.

The members of parliament (MPs) Miguel Angel Calisto and Giorgio Jackson presented the drafted resolution to the government with the hopes of implementing a ”blockchain ecosystem” for Chile in the near future.

Calisto made the argument that the technology could be used to add transparency and trust to the work carried out by different public agencies, also reducing the risk of private information that they have access to being used in a malicious way. He told parliament: “It is the moment that these new technologies that are at the forefront of innovation, are seen as a real option in a Chile that must look to the future and ensure the good of all its citizens.”

Jackson added that that aim of the blockchain resolution is to increase cybersecurity standards and reduce bureaucracy within public services but that blockchain should not be limited to this, pushing that it’s ”transformative” and ”revolutionary” potential of decentralizing information should be explored further.

He also made a point that instituting blockchain data sharing solutions could save costs, citing a recent report produced by the Chilean Economic Prosecution office which points to the increasingly challenging financial situation that maintenance of notaries has become for the government.

Calisto and Jackson first registered the resolution in August, backed by eight of their colleagues. In it, the resolution appeals to president Sebastian Pinera to take action in instituting blockchain solutions in the country, with an offer to conduct studies into the potential advantages of blockchain-based security and energy solutions.

The president of Chile’s Central Bank, Mario Marcel, said in May that he was considering the establishment of regulation around cryptocurrencies to prevent them being used in the country for any illicit activities. Pointing to terrorist financing and money laundering, in particular, Marcel said that formulating a legal structure around digital currencies could help ”monitor risks”.


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NY Firm Want to Change the Face of Crypto Mining with Moroccan Wind Farm

If plans come to fruition Morocco could become the location for one of the biggest blockchain-powering energy operations in the world.

Soluna the computing company that generates its own renewable energy has revealed plans to build a 900-megawatt wind farm south of Marrakesh suggesting that such a move may well significantly push crypto mining towards a far more sustainable era.

The site in Dakhla, on the edge of the Sahara Desert, by the Atlantic Ocean is known as a class 1 wind site with wind speed reaching higher than 22mph. The site covers 37,000 acres and should produce 900 megawatts as an off-grid operation.

Bitcoin mining has become a contentious issue with opposing view on each side of the ecological divide. Critics argue about the consumption of vast amounts of energy, often citing the Irish example to support their argument citing the entire network now consumes more power than the Irish Republic in its entirety. Digiconomist estimates that Bitcoin consumes more power than some countries, such as the Irish Republic, Chile, and Austria.

John Belizaire, CEO of Soluna, argues that this approach misses the point:

“Some have accused crypto miners of being extractive… In contrast, one of our core values is to invest in local economies. By building our own power and operating data centres, we bring investment dollars, create jobs, and (notably) don’t take away from the existing stock of energy to the local region.”

Soluna is backed by NY private equity firm Brookstone Partners which specializes in acquisitions and growth capital. One of their current projects is to convert wind energy into electrical energy for the purpose of mining cryptocurrency, being the cheapest source of energy available.

It is estimated that by the end of 2018 the Bitcoin network will be using over 125 terawatt hours per year. The issue here for many is its carbon footprint as the network is mostly fueled in China by burning coal, as this is a low-cost energy source.

Utility-scale renewable green energy sources such as the project planned for Morocco have enormous potential for the future if crypto mining continues to grow at its current rate.

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South America: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 27th April to 3rd May 2018

South America

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.


Growing number of Bitcoin ATMs despite regulation: Bitcoin ATMs are being deployed around the world and Argentinian companies are also setting up large numbers across the country despite heavy government regulation on cryptocurrencies that is hampering the growth of the cryptocurrency space.

More than 200 Bitcoin ATMs deployed across Argentina: US ATM distributor Odyssey Group has announced that it has signed pre-agreements to install over 4,000 cryptocurrency ATMs across the Latin America country after the central bank BCRA agreed to loosen up restrictions in the space.

According to the relaxed rules, ATMs can be installed in supermarkets, shopping malls and even cinemas. Right now only the Argentinian company Bancelo has the license to install them only within bank premises but the new legislation has unveiled the path to massive Bitcoin ATMs across the country.


Traders bet big on crypto options market: Brazilian traders have made a bold move into the cryptocurrency options market because of the volatility in the markets. They bought more than USD 1.4 billion worth of contracts on Tuesday alone, hoping it will pay off if the currency increases its value next week. Trading volume has jumped up 25 times the average volume in recent two weeks alone.

Political volatility including upcoming elections are also increasing investor anxiety and it could have effects on the investor attitude in the market.

Exchange hacked for BTC 58 overall losses: Brazilian cryptocurrency exchange FoxBit’s woes continued with a login issue resulting in traders losing more than BTC 58 in different cryptocurrencies. The cause was a bug in the login menu that allowed users to withdraw double amounts of cryptocurrencies. FoxBit was a little late to respond to the threat and had to close for 14 days. All in all, around BTC 58 (USD 540,000) was lost in the hacks.

The bug was first noticed in the Brazilian cryptocurrency circles by Leandro Trindade. His own investigation into the issue revealed that traders could even change their 2FA settings with a one-time password thus locking users out of their accounts.

In an interview with Portal do Bitcoin, Trindade said, “I could be rich right now. But my code of ethics won’t let me.”

Angry traders were reporting all sorts of losses on the platform, as much as USD 10,000 each, while the operating company has blamed the users for enabling weak security and revealing sensitive information to third parties by the users.


Court orders banks to re-opening crypto exchange accounts: Chile’s anti-monopoly court has ruled that the two Chilean banks who suspended the accounts of the cryptocurrency exchange BUDA, have to be re-open the accounts. The announcement was seen as a victory by the BUDA and CryptoMKT exchanges against the might of the Association of the Banks and Financial Institutions (ABIF) after the latter reportedly agreed on a policy to contain the cryptocurrency exchanges.

Their statement read: “The lack of knowledge and regulatory clarity has given rise to the fact that some banks, out of fear, misinformation or perhaps by strategy, are refusing to provide their services to anyone who has any relationship with any digital asset”.

Minister supports crypto initiatives after positive court decision: Chile’s Minister of Economy Jose Valente has come out and supported the cause of embattled cryptocurrency exchanges and put his weight behind their cause to get their bank accounts re-opened.

Diario Financiero reported him as saying, “What interests us with cryptocurrencies is basically giving them the opportunity [to develop] because they are an important innovation that is happening in the world… You have to give them a chance.”

He also said that Chile cannot remain outside these innovations and “economy of the future”.


India offered 30% discount on crude oil purchases in Petro: Venezuela is offering a big discount to other central banks to accept payment in its Petro cryptocurrency. It has offered India a 30% discount on its crude oil purchases but only if India uses Petro to pay for them.

It is difficult to say whether or not India will take up the offer as there is much to learn about the cryptocurrency. The Reserve Bank of India is already in the midst of a crackdown against Bitcoin traders across the South Asian country.

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Chile Crypto Exchanges Fight Bank Blockade

Following the shutdown of three Chilean cryptocurrency exchanges by banks Itau Corbanca, Bank of Nova Scotia and the state-owned Banco del Estado de Chile, the exchanges have taken their grievances to the appeals court in an attempt to overturn the decision.

Chile’s largest exchanges,, Crypto Market (Crypto MKT), and Orionx are currently blocked from using the banks. Banco del Estado de Chile stated at the time of its decision that it would “not operate with companies that are dedicated to the insurance or creation, brokerage, intermediation or serve as a platform for the so-called cryptocurrencies”.

Before the shutout, Buda facilitated approximately USD 1 million worth of cryptocurrency trades daily. The lawyer representing the exchanges commented that the decision was “an abusive exploitation of a situation of economic independence”.

Although little reason has been offered by the banks, there is a general feeling that the blockade may have originated from the government after Chile’s Financial Stability Council (Consejo de Estabilidad Financiera, CEF) warned of risks pertaining to the use of cryptocurrencies earlier this month.

The appeals court has agreed the hear the exchanged out, although their bank accounts remain closed. According to Bloomberg, Chile’s financial institutions are currently attempting to put a blanket ban on the cryptocurrency industry.

Both BUDA and Crypto MKT issued a public statement titled ‘Chile Can Make A Fool Of Itself Or Stand Out Worldwide’, asking for a transparent stance on cryptocurrencies. They argue that banks in Chile have been shutting down crypto exchange accounts with instructions “not to open an account for anyone” with a connection to cryptocurrencies. The statement argues:

“Due to the lack of knowledge and clarity some banks, out of fear, lack of information, or even poor strategy, are refusing or not offering services to people who are in the cryptocurrency market.”

Guillermo Torrealba, Buda’s chief executive officer, was quoted as saying, “They’re killing an entire industry. It won’t be possible to buy and sell crypto in a safe business in Chile. We’ll have to go back five years and trade in person. It seems very arbitrary.”

The moves by state-owned Banco del Estado de Chile seem to conflict with a recent statement by Susana Jimenez, Chilean minister of energy, announcing that the country’s National Energy Commission would start using blockchain, the technology behind virtual currencies, in its energy sector data.

Despite the relatively small amount of business compared to some of the world’s biggest exchanges which trade up to USD 2 billion worth of cryptocurrency a day, the market in Chile continues to be buoyant.


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South America: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 6th to 13th April 2018

South America

Welcome to our weekly roundup of all important blockchain and cryptocurrency news from around the world. Follow the latest developments in the cryptocurrency space continent by continent, country by country.


Chile undergoing trials for Ethereum-based pilot to store energy data: Chile’s national energy commission Comisión Nacional de Energía de Chile (CNE) has announced a new project that will utilize the Ethereum blockchain to store the energy sector data.

In a press release issued on 6 April, the CNE detailed the benefits of using a decentralized system as opposed to a centralized “easy to manipulate” standard security database. The Ethereum blockchain’s revolutionary capability to be programmed by any entity lends power to the initiative.

CNE’s latest move will allow the public to see the data through several graphical user interfaces. Chile’s minister for energy Susana Jimenez noted the crucial nature of the public disclosure of critical energy data. It will allow the public to access the readily available information and increase confidence in the government’s working.


Argentina hosts Bitcoin Day: Argentine capital Buenos Aires was home to the Bitcoin Day conference which welcomed more than 500 crypto enthusiasts. Bitcoin is being greeted with open arms in the South American nation that has suffered from hyperinflation and other economic issues in the recent past.

In 2017 alone, the volume of Bitcoin traded in the nation was close to 2.1 million Argentine Peso (ARS), four times the amount traded last year.

In the conference, Carlos Maslaton, head of treasury at wallet provider Xapo, said that he was satisfied with current dialogue in the country with the financial institutions and there was generous competition in the markets.


Petro faces allegations of falsifying records: Venezuela’s controversial cryptocurrency Petro has taken another hit after falsification was found in a discrepancy report based on its white paper. The issue was reported both by CCN and Criptomoedas Fácil. The whitepaper shows that 38.4 million tokens were to be sold, each valued at USD 60 with a 60% discount at the ICO stage. If the stage went as planned, USD 2.304 billion would have been raised. President Maduro claimed that USD 5 billion was raised in the ICO which is in a direct contradiction of this.

This supports earlier claims that the Venezuelan cryptocurrency might not be transparent and that the government might be meddling in its records. Still not much is known regarding the mechanism of the El Petro Coin which is supposed to be backed by oil.


Brazil university launches Bitcoin masters program: Sao Paulo-based University Fundacao Getulio Vargas has announced that it will be offering a masters degree in cryptofinance to prepare students for the future of digital currencies. The program is a reflection of Brazil’s forward-thinking approach in the decentralized sector. The University of Sao Paulo is also embracing new technologies including blockchain and cryptocurrencies in its derivatives course.




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Argentina Leads the Way with Bitcoin Day

A Bitcoin Day conference which took place last week in Buenos Aires attracted some 500 cryptocurrency enthusiasts.

Argentina and Bitcoin were once described as a “match made in heaven”. Its financial and economic history is a fragile one after suffering numerous rounds of inflation; hyperinflation of 20,000% in the late 1980s being the South American country’s lowest economic moment.

Bitcoin has been greeted in Argentina with enthusiasm partly because countries with histories of inflation and devaluation of their currencies see the digital currency as one that can conserve the value of user investments and savings. After President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner‘s tightening of currency controls debased the Argentine peso (ARS) in 2012, Bitcoin has gained increasing popularity.

In 2017, the volume of Bitcoins traded in Argentina increased to a record 2.1 million ARS, quadruple the volume of the previous year, against a backdrop of a growing fintech market.

Chile looks to its neighbor Argentina as an indication of how the cryptocurrency climate can be improved on the continent, avoiding mistakes which have been made elsewhere. Bitcoin exchange Buda’s CEO, Guillermo Torrealba, is making an effort to achieve banking support in Argentina: “There are even banks here that have executives that are exclusively dedicated to cryptocurrency companies.”

The closing of cryptocurrency exchange accounts in Chile over recent weeks by the Chilean State Bank demonstrates Argentina’s forward-looking approach to the use and adoption of digital currencies. But this is not necessarily going to become the status quo elsewhere in South America.

CEO of digital notarization platform Signatura, Gonzalo Blousson, acknowledged that progress is being made in Argentina due to the registration of official bulletins on blockchain, commenting that “We used to call the companies to tell them what blockchain is about. Today they call us…”

Speaking at the Bitcoin Day conference, Carlos Maslaton, head of treasury at wallet provider Xapo, indicated that he was satisfied with the current dialogue on how financial institutions were wary of Bitcoin because he felt it “generates competition” in financial markets.


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Chile Trials Ethereum-Based Pilot To Store Energy Data

Chile’s national energy commission, Comisión Nacional de Energía de Chile (CNE), has announced the launch of a pilot project that utilizes the Ethereum blockchain to store the nation’s energy sector data.

CNE issued a press release on 5 April detailing the benefits of using the decentralized system, as opposed to what is described as an ”easy to manipulate” standard security database. The Ethereum blockchain is a peer-to-peer network, considered superior to more vulnerable alternatives that require a central facilitator.

The energy data will initially be stored on Energía Abierta, a database that is reported to administer across hundreds of thousands of servers. This provides the public with real-time access to the information stored. The energy data will be subject to a stringent verification process before it is then transferred to the Ethereum blockchain by CNE employees.

The data stored on the blockchain is designed to be accessible to the public through one of several graphical user interfaces.

Chile’s minister of energy, Susana Jiménez, recently noted the crucial nature of public disclosure of energy data, stating that it increases confidence in the government from citizens as well as from stakeholders. She acknowledged that public information is a key feature required to make ”investment decisions, designing public policies or creating new tools at the service of society”.

CNE first revealed plans for the project in February of this year, citing the primary reasons behind the move being to improve data security, accuracy, transparency and accessibility.

The news from CNE follows the recent threat of bank suspension against and CryptoMKT. The two cryptocurrency trading platforms registered in Chile faced the suspension because of their digital currency holdings. Initial coverage of the event noted that the move was at odds with the country’s generally liberal economic policies.

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