According to a major comprehensive study, blockchain technologies “can clearly benefit energy systems operations, markets, and consumers”.
The study, ‘Blockchain technology in the energy sector: A systematic review of challenges and opportunities‘, was made available online last month. It was conducted by scientists from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland who were looking deeper into the potential of blockchain technology when applied to the energy sector.
Having reviewed 140 blockchain research projects and startups, the researchers mapped out the “potential and relevance of blockchains for energy applications”, from which they have drawn several varied conclusions with regards to the present and future opportunities of distributed ledger technologies (DLT) as well as the challenges the technology faces.
Citing hallmark blockchain features such as “disintermediation, transparency and tamper-proof transactions”, the study also describes the “novel solutions” that DLT offers, writing that it also empowers consumers and “small renewable generators to play a more active role in the energy market and monetize their assets”. It adds that blockchains have resulted in sharing economy applications in energy, prompting authors to cite “novel market models and energy democratization”.
Referencing a survey of the German Energy Agency, the study highlights the growing positive sentiments toward blockchain with 20% of them seeing the tech as a “game changer for energy suppliers”. Furthermore, it notes that numerous energy utility companies have begun to explore DLT’s potential “as an enabling technology for low-carbon transition and sustainability”.
A city in South Korea and the United Kingdom are just two examples of jurisdictions that have partnered with blockchain enterprises on a mission to reduce carbon emissions via their solutions. The UK example is notable as the intention behind the ambitious project is to turn the city climate-positive, offsetting 110% of the emissions and utilizing the positive figure to fund conservation projects around the world.
There is also mention of blockchain enabled Virtual Power Plants (VPPs), these are distributed energy production facilities that connect multiple energy producers to a cloud-based system where excess and idle energy can be tapped and efficiently distributed and monitored. In South Korea, a VPP project was recently announced with renewable power generating units as the core energy model, intended to reduce energy consumption demands during peak-hours and redistribute it to wherever it is needed.
A notable takeaway from the study is the examination of peer-to-peer (P2P) trading and decentralized energy. As written in the report: “Potential use cases in this category are decentralized trading in microgrids, bilateral transactions between prosumers and consumers and business-to-business (B2B) energy trading.”
Solutions provided by blockchain could be used in conjunction with VPPs, enhance grid and network management control as well other benefits. Most interestingly, direct P2P energy trading between users could create an on-demand energy marketplace, something of which numerous energy-based eco-blockchain startups are vying for, including one that is soon to go ahead in Japan.
The study is one of the most comprehensive of its kind and from an unbiased perspective, carefully examines blockchain in the energy sector as a future technology that boasts marvelous promise, but is not without its challenges.
Singing off, the study writes: “Blockchain technologies can be disruptive for energy companies and face a large variety of challenges to achieve market penetration, including legal, regulatory and competition barriers. Additional research initiatives, trials, projects, and collaborations will show if the technology can reach its full potential, prove its commercial viability and finally be adopted in the mainstream.”
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