Using the past to build the future energy system

January 18, 2018



Brooklyn Microgrid was the first use of blockchain technology to support neighbourhood-owned renewable energy that I learned about. The platform has allowed homeowners to see their excess solar power to neighbours. They host Let’s Build a Microgrid Community workshops with the goal to revolutionize the way a community thinks about, produces and uses energy in a sustainable way. They are making renewable energy generation accessible to a diversity of people.

Democratic. Inclusive. Disruptive.

My son recently sent me a link to another application of blockchain technology to grow prosumers – energy users who both consume and produce energy. This time in the City of Fremantle, Australia.

Brad Pettitt, mayor of the City of Fremantle, had this to say about the partnership: “We are delighted to host this project in the City of Fremantle. This collaboration between existing infrastructure, renewable energy and innovative technology fits with our One Planet zero carbon energy target and will help us to secure the ongoing sustainability of essential services for communities that live here.”

The project brings together academic, infrastructure and technology partners to assess how cities can use blockchain technology and data analytics to integrate local power. A large solar photovoltaic (PV) plant, rooftop solar PV panels, a community-owned, precinct-sized battery, and an electric vehicle charge station are all part of the mix. Alternative district water supply and storage schemes will also be included in the project.

Much has been made of the electricity utility death spiral, as the cost of distributed energy generation and storage declines. Reuters Inside Power, Gas and Carbon Newsletter recently reported research by the consultancy Ernst & Young suggesting that it could "cost the same to generate and store your own power as to buy it from an energy supplier in Oceania and Europe by the early 2020s." 

However, rather than turning its back on the past, this community will leverage their existing investment in water and electricity infrastructure. As they describe it, blockchain technology will be deployed “to orchestrate sustainable assets”.

A new business model is emerging.