Jennifer Aaron

The new chain of power

The new chain of power

Energy is a hot topic as more and more people start to realise the ill-effects of continuing on a fossil fuelled path into the future.

The sustainable energy sector has seen huge advances in the way power is generated sustainably and more recently, how it is stored and used.  However, the distribution network remains at the mercy of the old energy industry and its archaic network of centralised storage, and poles and wire distribution ‘systems’.

While I don’t completely comprehend what ‘blockchain’ is or how it works, what I have seen with this emerging technology, is power companies beginning to understand the incredible potential it has to disrupt the traditional power distribution model.

Like AirBnB, the largest accommodation business in the world, which doesn’t own any hotels or Uber which doesn’t own any cars — new power companies such as Swytch, Wepower and Power Ledger don’t actually produce any power themselves.

Blockchain, power supply and peer to peer energy trading

The one part of ‘blockchain’ I do understand is the concept of ‘decentralisation’, or cutting out the middleman - where the middleman can be a bank, a government or any organisation who enables and controls the terms of commercial transactions between consumers and providers.

In a decentralised system, the purchaser deals directly with the provider and the exchange of value — for example, green energy in exchange for a token or a type of currency — is instant and doesn’t involve anyone else in the transaction. It is entirely digital.

For example: my neighbour and I both have solar panels on our houses and we both have storage batteries. If my neighbour runs low on power and I have power to spare, he can purchase my spare power and pay for it via an app on his phone.

The implications of localised peer-to-peer energy trading for remote communities and developing countries are huge when you consider the enormous cost of the infrastructure needed to power them using fossil fuels or hydroelectricity.

Coupled with the increasing reach of wireless technology, the scope for even the poorest of our global community to have access to free education and vital information is immense — and heartening!

The beginning of a whole new world

One of the other big benefits of localised renewable power generation and distribution is its resilience to extreme weather conditions. The impact of storms and heatwaves which historically disrupt the centralised power supply — often to hundreds of thousands of homes at a time, can be greatly reduced.

WIth this new system, unsightly pole and wires which blight our urban environments would start to disappear.

Australian company Power Ledger have already successfully run community based power trading trials in Fremantle in Perth WA. In December of 2017 they announced a partnership with Thailand renewable power company BCPG to create a microgrid between 6 -10 apartment buildings with a peer-to-peer trading system. Peer to peer energy company Enosi, based in Melbourne, is also backing this new concept with a similar offering.

As the global community struggle to contain and reverse the effects of our way of life, it is projects such as these that will have the biggest impact and offer real opportunity to people, no matter where they are and what their situation is.

I urge you to watch this lecture by economist and social theorist Jeremy Rifkin. It is a brilliantly considered view of our future. []

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