Renewable energy is both the need of the hour and the next big thing in the world today, with governments across the globe committing to reducing dependence on fossil-fuel based energy. The ratification of the Paris Agreement by major global economies is another step in this direction. Just over 19% of the global electricity consumption was met by energy generated from renewable sources and given an increase of 18% in new investments in renewable energy over 2004-2015, the renewable energy sector is expected to gain even more traction in the near future. While governments across the globe are taking rapid steps towards ushering in an ultramodern and futuristic approach to catering to ever-increasing energy demands, the tracking of green energy produced still relies on byzantine systems built around tradable certificates.
The problem here isn’t with the certificates themselves but the rather cumbersome processes of management and trading of these certificates through various intermediaries. In the conventional setting, data pertaining to every unit of electricity generated by a renewable energy plant is recorded by a meter and logged onto a spreadsheet. A registry provider then creates a certificate based on the spreadsheet, which in turn is traded by brokers between buyers and sellers, who independently employ a third party to verify the certificate. Needless to say then, this entire process is shrouded in red-tapism and is highly susceptible to the introduction of human errors and can be manipulated with malicious intent.
At the more granular level, smaller producers of renewable energy through rooftop solar panels and home wind turbines generate surplus energy, which is shared back with the grid. However, given the lengthy and cumbersome process, the payment for the energy sold to the grid often takes up to 2 months or more, dissuading consumers from adopting such systems, given the relatively high capital investment involved.
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A smart implementation of blockchain can allow for a significantly more efficient and highly transparent trading system that would allow producers to sell surplus energy among themselves, rather than sell it to the grid.
An implementation could potentially allow for the metering system to directly record a tamperproof certificate onto the blockchain as a shared and encrypted ledger. This would do away with all the middlemen and the high transaction costs associated with the buying, selling, and verification of the certificates. A local microgrid could be set up using blockchain-based technology, which could allow for trading of surplus energy within the microgrid and also ensure that consumers would pay only for the part of the network of the grid used by them. One such project to alleviate the issues plaguing the conventional energy grid was by a non-profit organization called Energy Web Foundation. The project deploys an Ethereum-based system that would validate all transactions through a group of 10 affiliate energy companies and focus on tracking certificates issued for renewable energy.
Possibilities of implementing a smart grid using Blockchain is vast. Consider an online P2P marketplace that facilitates the exchange of clean energy directly between customers without the involvement of intermediaries, through an automatic digital trading process made possible through Ethereum smart contracts on a permissioned blockchain(Monax/Quorum). This could also facilitate a meter reading facility which can save the data from users meter directly onto blockchain. In turn, a trading platform which can pay the token to producers directly once the product is delivered. Such a smart grid would facilitate open sharing of energy between different nodes in the grid, providing an option for the participants to generate income from the distributing the energy as well.
Future iterations of such blockchain systems would allow for seamless and autonomous trading of power between consumers and the grid, on the basis of real-time market prices. This would allow owners of small power generators get the maximum value for their investments and bring about a transformation in the entire modern power grid.