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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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Miami is Fast Becoming a US Crypto Trendsetter

Florida staked its claim as a significant name in crypto as two pizzas delivered by Papa John’s in Jacksonville once cost the crypto equivalent of $65 million in today’s money, and now with Miami staking its claim as Bitcoin capital of the US, the dream lives on.

Miami is on a charge and has seen a surge of blockchain and crypto conferences setting up their annual venues there over the years. It’s unsurprising, given that there’s also a history there too, as it was not only the home of the first North American Bitcoin Conference but also witnessed the birth of Vitalik Buterin’s Ethereum experiment.

This year’s North American Bitcoin Conference heralded in even more startups, some 30 in number, raising millions, and now gives way to the next conference in the queue, Blockchain Shift to be held in late October bringing IBM, Tesla, KPMG, Bloomberg into its orbit. It promises to be another extravaganza with late-night dancing and yacht parties scheduled, living up to the current festival mode employed by crypto conference organizers.

Miami started the crypto ATM revolution, with machine provider BitStop out of Palmetto Bay now providing services for client all over the state and in California with a network of 50 transaction points.

One of Florida’s movers and shakers, George Levy, award-winning Lecturer and Senior Instructor on the blockchain, had a hand in starting Miami’s Blockchain Institute of Technology (BIT), an online training academy which teaches people more about cryptocurrency and its technological foundations. Levy now has students in 166 countries around the globe and follows up his online training with personal appearances in many of those. Lately, he’s taken the leap to South America, where Bitcoin raised early interest. He now works alongside the engineering department at the University of Curaçao.

“We’re seeing innovation coming out of Latin America, as well strong developers based in Argentina,” he says, adding that, “The fact that I’m here in Miami gives me a very close spot to be able to engage that. It’s a great hub.”

South Americans have viewed cryptocurrency as an escape from financial oppression for years, as exemplified by Bitcoin’s huge following in Venezuela where the fiat economy is a total burnout. Because of its Latin American connection, Miami has a renewed spark of life as a potential crypto hub for South America as a result of political unrest there, geographic proximity and Spanish speaking population.

With such a vibrant cryptocurrency ecosystem comes regulatory concerns, one of the motivations by State government’s June decision to appoint a “Cryptocurrency Chief” to oversee the industry, according to Florida’s chief financial officer Jimmy Patronis, an “…active, comprehensive and balanced approach” providing an “appropriate level of scrutiny for emerging digital asset technologies.”

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Bittrex, Cryptofacil to Launch Crypto Exchange in the Caribbean and Latin America

Bittrex has partnered with Cryptofacil, a new crypto exchange headquartered in the South American nation of Uruguay, to launch a crypto exchange across the Caribbean and Latin America. This is a major milestone since this region has lacked a major crypto exchange up until now. This new exchange will have over 200 cryptocurrencies and 270 token pairings.

Crypto exchanges are one of the most critical pieces of infrastructure for the adoption of crypto. Exchanges, like the one Cryptofacil is launching, provide a conduit for fiat currency to flow into and out of the crypto markets. Latin America and the Caribbean have numerous different fiat currencies, and major offshore crypto exchanges that usually only deal with USD, EUR, and JPY are simply inadequate. This launch is implicitly saying they will be making connections with banks in each nation in the region, to provide crypto trading for each type of fiat in the region.

Once Cryptofacil is fully launched, citizens of Latin America and the Caribbean will be able to buy and sell crypto with their native fiat currencies, massively accelerating crypto adoption and the usefulness of crypto in the region. There are hundreds of millions of people living in this region, so this is a major development.

Bittrex will provide essential infrastructure and liquidity for Cryptofacil. Bittrex has tens of millions of dollars in trading volume per day; Cryptofacil can connect with this trading liquidity, which will give its customers optimal trades even when this new exchange is just starting. Additionally, Bittrex is one of the biggest exchanges in the United States, and its experience will help guide Cryptofacil through complex international regulations.

Bittrex CEO, Bill Shihara, says, “Bittrex works every day to advance blockchain technology and this partnership with Cryptofacil will further drive its worldwide adoption. Cryptofacil and Bittrex will provide Latin American and Caribbean customers a reliable, fast and secure trading platform that also offers access to some of the world’s most innovative blockchain projects. As we continue expanding our global footprint, it is partnerships like this one that will serve to not only support the blockchain industry, but also to incubate innovative projects using this revolutionary technology.”


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La Bitcoineta: Argentine Non-Profit Tackles Lack of Knowledge in Local Communities, Push for Crypto-Driven Change

As Bitcoin’s popularity and user base continue to grow, companies involved with the cryptocurrency are progressing from merely providing the infrastructure needed such as wallets and exchanges, to providing sophisticated services such as healthcare or gaming applications. With an innovative fintech sector emerging to service the cryptocurrency market, financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs have begun turning their heads, offering Bitcoin ventures such as futures trading or cryptocurrency hedgefund management.

The Bitcoin market cap at the time of press stands at USD one hundred seven billion; this significant sector still lacks international understanding, trust, and mainstream accessibility. A group of individuals based in Argentina have taken it upon themselves to liberate and educate the population of their country on Bitcoin, with the hopes of aiding sustainable economic growth via the possibilities of Bitcoin and the ensuing fintech sector.

The group has managed to create a fun, unique way of spreading the message. Pictured below is La Bitcoineta, their stylised Bitcoin education van that has taken them across the cities and towns of Argentina.

They described their objective to Bitcoin News as an ”initiative to generate bridges between those who are developing the technologies that will change the world and the different productive, social, cultural, and economic ecosystems.” The individuals in the team shared their understanding that firsthand projects can inspire new solutions, or benefit from existing technologies.

Smaller communities lacked general Bitcoin awareness

Speaking to Bitcoin News, a spokesperson for La Bitcoineta described a striking lack of awareness surrounding Bitcoin and blockchain technology in the smaller communities that they visited. Consequently, this meant that much time in these locations was spent devoted to explaining these concepts to the locals from scratch, basic education being the first step for these individuals to enter the market. Their efforts were welcomingly received; the spokesperson said ”everybody is open to the new concept and enjoys us going there.”

Bitcoin has started to make its mark in Argentina

As the spokesperson described it as surprising to some, nearly all of the smaller cities that were visited had some individuals who were knowledgeable on the subject, indicating the vast reach of Bitcoin internationally. These knowledgeable ”bitcoiners,” as they described them, shared enormous gratitude towards the team for taking the time to visit and share their knowledge with their hometown.

Is local media the answer?

The team told Bitcoin News that they have received an exponential amount of national media traction during their journey so far, with feedback for their work largely positive. They noted local media as a powerful tool in aiding their cause. Frequently La Bitcoineta would make headlines in the local newspapers and their online outlets, helping develop the regional conversation around Bitcoin and blockchain. The irony was not lost that such a traditional, established media form would come to aid this reformist cause.

Challenges and successes

The team behind La Bitcoineta see the greatest possible results of their tour as driving crypto-related change in communities that would benefit this the most, particularly in areas where individual’s efforts could be monetized or reach international markets. Through their talks, they hope to create an impact on the local fintech sector, inspiring projects, changes and pushing for a less bureaucratic government.
The biggest challenge they have faced in reaching this goal has been their ability to reach and connect with the right people. While the team has been considerably active in pushing their agenda, reaching government decision makers themselves and identifying the communities that they could positively impact the most has presented the greatest test.
Despite La Bitcoineta’s Bitcoin positivity, those behind the objective do not see it as likely, nor are they pushing for Bitcoin to be adopted as a regular payment system. This is only considered by themselves as a likely option if merchant outlets themselves incentivize cryptocurrency spending through a discounted alternative to fiat.
Instead, the biggest fruitful challenge they see is pursuing Bitcoin to be a globally recognized store of value and a better alternative medium of exchange. The impending fight against banks and governments is their biggest concerns for reaching this, but they are confident the cryptocurrency driven change they envision will be achieved.
La Bitcoineta’s journey can be followed on both Twitter and Facebook.
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South America: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup, 27th March to 5th 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.


Venezuela may pay Russia with Petro cryptocurrency for automotive parts: Venezuela has recently launched its own cryptocurrency Petro and the state may use the new cryptocurrency to pay Russia for automotive parts and components according to Venezuelan minister for foreign trade Vielma Mora.

As quoted by the AVN new agency:

“[The issues of cooperation] include the purchases of automotive parts and components, of tires and batteries, as well as assembling of these vehicles in our country and the forms of payment, in which we include the payments with the use of Petro.

He also went on to claim that Russia is also considering accepting payment in Petro for different goods including steel, aluminium, flowers, coffee and cacao. The response from Russia has been lukewarm but the Venezuelan government has high hopes for its new currency that it claims is backed by its sizeable oil reserves.

Crypto rating sites flay Petro: Cryptocurrency and ICO rating sites have painted a dark picture for the future of Petro as a cryptocurrency. Major coin rating websites like,, Cryptorated and ICOreview have either slammed the project or not even bothered to review it at all. The currency may have actually gained momentum after US government banned the new cryptocurrency but according to the coin rating websites, there is little reason to back the first full-fledged state-backed cryptocurrency.


Three cryptocurrency exchanges banned by Chilean state bank: Three major cryptocurrency exchanges operating in Chile Buda, Orionx and Cruptomkt have been banned by the Chilean central bank Banco del Estado de Chile. Previously, these exchanges were also banned by Itaú Unibanco Holding S.A. of Brazil and The Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank of Canada). The three cryptocurrency exchanges have expressed resentment at this move but have claimed that their funds are fully secure and there is no “insolvency risk” as to say.

After the ban, the future of cryptocurrency and cryptocurrency trading operating from Chile is uncertain as the bank is being very demanding. Santiago-based CryptoMKT, one of the exchanges that was banned, was of the opinion“Cryptocurrency startups in Chile aren’t going to close because of the barriers being put up by the banks. CryptoMKT commercial manager Daniel Dupré told BNamericas. “There are [payment-processing] alternatives, which we didn’t look into previously because they have an associated cost.”


First cryptocurrency in Latin America launched: A young team of developers and crypto enthusiasts have launched ApperCoin, the first cryptocurrency to have come from Latin American states. The platform and its coin reportedly allows individuals and stores to easily exchange different currencies directly with their smartphones.

The cryptocurrency is now available for daily use in more than 45 stores in Venado Tuerto, a small city in Santa Fe, Argentina with a population of around 70,000 people. The team is also reportedly working on expanding the influence of the new cryptocurrency to San Nicolas in Buenos Aires province that housed the capital before 2019. Some stores are also offering substantial discounts up to 50% if customers pay through the new cryptocurrency.


Brazil’s central bank president says cryptocurrencies need to be monitored: According to a previous statement by Ilan Goldfajn, the president of Brazil’s central bank, cryptocurrencies are unstable therefore they need to be monitored and their system be put on high alert. Brazil’s cryptocurrency trading sector is gathering steam but so far no tough regulations have been placed on Bitcoin traders and blockchain businesses.

Brazil-based users download Android mining malware more than 100,000 times: Cybercriminals are now using Android apps to use smartphone computing power for mining purposes, according to the latest research by anti-malware firm Kaspersky Lab. While the apps did provide legitimate functions, they secretly used a part of the CPU power to mine cryptocurrency Monero. Most of the affected userbase was from Brazil and VPN apps that are very popular among Brazilians were the main culprit behind this illegal mining activity. Other more obvious efforts included games that sucked up the computing power of hundreds of thousands of these smartphones.


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