Energy is another industry sector where there is an accelerating amount of development, prototyping, discussion and (probably) hype regarding the use of blockchain. Just on our little site here at Blocktonite, we’ve catalogued over 65 articles, a dozen start-ups, and innumerable videos on energy and blockchain.
Right now, there are two emerging uses, and both represent the ability of open exchanges for people to sell and buy energy directly from each other (you have to wonder what utility companies think about this). In one use, solar panel owners offer any surplus Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) they may have earned to anyone who want them. In this case, the buyer is effectively buying a tax credit. The advantage of this approach is that it doesn’t require a fundamental change in the existing power grid utility infrastructure. I might buy via the blockchain windmill RECs generated by a windmill farm 2,000 miles away. The best example of this use is a pilot that a start-up called LO3 Energy is conducting in conjunction with blockchain developer Consensys and literally a street of houses in Brooklyn NY.
The second use case is more interesting. In this approach, a community has their own “microgrid” that everyone is hooked into, and all the houses have smart meters. Suppose I have excess power available from my solar panel, and suppose you need power. You and I can have a “smart contract” on the blockchain supporting the microgrid – so that you get power from me when I have it and you need it. You can even customize your power consumption in line with your priorities (e.g. heat, the economy, cost). The blockchain allows me (the energy seller) to collect currency tokens that I can use elsewhere. This use case is also on the drawing board for LO3, along with other energy startups like Gridularity, Scanergy, Power Ledger, and several others.
But the overall point is this: one broad application of blockchain enabled “distributed ledgers” is the facilitation of direct so-called “prosumer to consumer” economies, taking us to the “next step” beyond Uber, Lyft, AirBnB to the true “gig economy”.