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Blockchain in electricity

Startup businesses raised more than $300 million in 2017 to use blockchain technology in a variety of ways in the energy sector. Some of these start-ups aspire to improve already-existing electricity trading platforms or possibly establish new ones.

For instance, blockchain can be used to enable peer-to-peer transactions that avoid using a central utility or retail energy provider. Blockchain might also be used by others to monitor the creation of clean energy. Others yet have suggested utilizing blockchain to make it simpler to pay for EV charging, raise money for renewable energy deployment, manage customer appliances, and more.

Policymakers will play a critical role in determining how much of blockchain's potential can be realized because the electric power sector is heavily regulated. Policymakers should first invest in understanding blockchain in order to successfully regulate it. They should then actively assist in the creation of technological standards.

Finally, regulators should enable blockchain startups to launch small-scale demonstration projects, for instance by establishing regulatory sandboxes that relax rules in the electric power sector to allow for testing.

Power utilities are risk-averse organizations that are sluggish to adapt to the evolving electric power landscape, in part because they are subject to regulatory scrutiny and pressure from shareholders wanting steady profits. This is a significant challenge. But in order to modernize electric power networks and provide reliable energy more affordably, cleanly, and effectively, utilities must take immediate action.

Smart energy devices could be used by sophisticated prosumers—electricity producers who also consume—to help the grid balance the erratic supply of renewable energy with demand. As fleets of portable batteries, EVs could back up the grid rather than stress it.

Additionally, utilities, clients, and independent businesses could work together to harness the massive amounts of real-time operational data to guarantee the efficient operation of the power system.

By providing a secure and transparent record of transactions, blockchain in power sector could help to increase transparency and accountability, particularly in relation to the management of renewable energy credits and the tracking of carbon emissions. Some Blockchain technology experts believe that blockchain could help to create a more decentralized and democratized energy system, in which individuals and communities have more control over their energy needs. Other experts are more skeptical of the potential of blockchain in electricity industry, and argue that more traditional technologies may be better suited to the challenges facing the sector. A blockchain development company can provide custom blockchain solutions for electricity management, such as tracking renewable energy credits or implementing smart contract-based billing systems.

TRADING IN BULK ENERGY

In the trading of electricity (and gas), deals are made on an internet exchange or through a broker after the beginning trader seeks pricing knowledge from an index agency. Both traders individually enter the transaction information into their own IT systems (sometimes referred to as "energy trading and risk management" [ETRM] systems] after the trade is closed.

To confirm and reconcile the trade, the back offices of both parties obtain the transactional information from their respective ETRM systems and exchange it with one another and/or the broker. The completion of this stage can be accomplished through spreadsheets, emails, phone calls, faxes, or automated confirmation systems like the European EFETnet. After that, a TSO physically settles the trade (or pipeline or shipment for gas). Financial settlement is also made by way of a clearinghouse or bank.

Finally, in accordance with their requirements, both actors disclose the transaction's specifics to the necessary auditors and regulators. Siloed IT systems and perhaps ineffective communications are used in this procedure. High transaction costs (expensive exchange and broker fees, pricing agencies, etc.) and operating costs may be the outcome (time-consuming reconciliation issues, costly back office processes, etc.). By streamlining operational procedures and linking the trading desks of all participants, blockchain technology could lower the transaction costs for trading in high quantities. Some people think trading platforms built on the blockchain will do away with brokers and clearinghouses.

Additionally, blockchain might allow participants to trade in smaller volumes by lowering transaction costs. Some trial programs, such the "Enerchain" and "Interbit" platforms from Blockchain Technology Limited (BTL), aim to lower the expenses related to wholesale energy trading. "Enerchain" is a proof-ofconcept blockchain-based clearing network for wholesale energy trading that was created by software and energy market automation business Ponton. It is independent of brokers or a central exchange. Enerchain enables wholesale energy dealers to send orders in an anonymous manner to a decentralized "orderbook" that other traders may access.

When compared to the entire trading volumes on the European Energy Exchange, the quantities that take place on the Enerchain platform are still quite small (EEX). Enerchain has nonetheless been growing. It started as a group of 15 European energy trading companies called The Enerchain Project in 2017. The consortium has 42 companies as of April 2018.

Recently, BTL completed a 12-week pilot project with the goal of addressing reconciliation problems in the European gas market. The pilot project aimed to lessen manual posttrade communications management in collaboration with Wien Energy, BP, Eni Trading & Shipping, and other energy businesses. Trade details were entered into a blockchain and verified in real time by counterparties rather than being sent via email. The pilot relies on BTL's proprietary blockchain technology, Interbit, which enables the creation of separate blockchains for each bilateral relationship and connections between them and a central directory blockchain.

In 2018, BTL announced a collaboration with Eni Trading & Shipping, Total, Gazprom Marketing & Trading Limited, and other businesses to deliver gas trading reconciliation through settlement and delivery of trades using the Interbit blockchain technology. OneOffice is the name of the business solution, which is a project that will bring in money for BTL.

MARKET FOR RETAIL ELECTRICITY

By utilizing cryptocurrencies for bill settlement and other "meter-to-cash" procedures, blockchain could improve retail electricity markets similarly to how it has improved wholesale markets. Blockchain could lower the variable costs of payment processing and accounting to that of executing a smart contract by enabling the rapid settlement of trades. Some others see eliminating the need for wholesale-to-retail intermediaries entirely with blockchain-based meter-to-cash automation. By offering better transparency into energy costs and bill components, more flexible entry and exit from energy contracts, and more choice and transparency in energy supply, blockchain could further benefit retail customers.

Examples of two startups in this industry are Drift and Grid+. Drift, a Seattle-based firm, is creating a blockchain-based platform that will let it function as a competitive energy supplier in regions without energy regulation. Drift uses distributed ledger technology, machine learning, and highfrequency trading to establish a direct connection between homeowners and small and mediumsized businesses and independent power generators. Drift sends out bills every seven days with thorough information on costs and energy sources.

Customers may track transactions and select between zero-carbon energy and cheapest energy via a web dashboard. Customers operate without contracts. An automated, Ethereum-based platform that will act as a retailer in deregulated energy markets is being created by Austin, Texas-based firm Grid+. Grid+ seeks to give consumers "almost frictionless access to the wholesale market" by automating invoicing and payment. The Grid+ "Smart Agent," a customer-located.

Internet-enabled energy gateway, serves as the project's foundation. This will be used largely as an automated payment processing unit in the near future, reading from the home's smart meter and paying for electricity usage in real time (15-minute to 1-hour intervals, depending on the market). It will do this by using "BOLT" tokens that are safely kept in its eWallet to execute smart contracts onto the Ethereum blockchain (a BOLT is a stable coin that represents $1 worth of electricity from Grid+).

P2P MARKETS IN YOUR COMMUNITY

Peer-to-peer (P2P) markets, where energy suppliers and consumers deal on a local level, may be made possible by blockchain technology. Blockchains could enhance the economics of small-scale renewables and DER, provide customers with more choice and transparency in their energy supply, and relieve strain on transmission networks (and hence lower network costs). The creation of P2P energy marketplaces has received a lot of attention in the blockchain for power space. According to a recent study, 57 percent of funds generated for blockchain-based energy projects go toward initiatives that use the technology to validate and carry out P2P transactions more quickly.

A smart electricity meter must be equipped with communication hardware or a blockchain networkconnected computer in order to use a blockchain to trade electricity in P2P markets and other places. Smart meters that are "blockchain aware" serve as a point of interaction and confirmation between the blockchain and the power grid. The meter keeps track of the production, imports, and exports of power.

By adding transactions to the blockchain, this is transformed into tokens that are distributed to market participants when transactions take place. Coins can be bought and redeemed using fiat money or cryptocurrencies, and they can be kept in a "e-wallet" with the meter itself.

The "Brooklyn Microgrid Project," created by US-based LO3 Energy, falls under this category and allows its users to transact in energy utilizing smart contracts over a blockchain. 23 Producers and consumers can exchange locally generated electricity thanks to the Brooklyn Microgrid Project's platform, which is based on Ethereum and targeted at the energy market.

Green certificates, which represent the net surplus energy provided by producers and recorded by blockchain-aware meters, are tokenized using smart contracts, and the P2P market where these certificates are traded is also created. Early in 2016, the project's first transaction—connecting five residences with solar photovoltaic (PV) generation to five customers—was successfully completed. The Project had expanded by the end of 2017 to include roughly 60 solar sites and 500 consumers.

Using a distributed blockchain app on an Android tablet, the Austrian businesses Verbund and Salzburg AG have created a blockchain P2P proof of concept that allows tenants to trade shares of the electricity produced on their roof. These shares are kept on a proof-of-work blockchain that the tenant manages directly. Following that, the grid operator Salzburg Netz GmbH gathers the transaction data using a read-only access and assigns the own usage to the various household bills.

This corresponds to reduced grid fees and savings from optimized personal usage within buildings (customers can switch flexible loads like electric car charging, for example). The key technological advancement put to the test in this proof of concept is the handover of data sovereignty over the generation shares from the grid operator to the customers in the context of the "Mieterstrom"- reform (tenant supply) and the new user experience using a blockchain-enabled app. "Jouliette," a blockchain-supported showcase

microgrid collaboration between Amsterdam's De Ceuvel sustainable office park, Dutch DSO Alliander, and energy solutions company Spectral, is another example of this sort. There are 16 ships or buildings at the location, as well as rooftop solar panels, a variety of businesses and appliances, and a single common grid connection. The microgrid, which was introduced in September 2017, uses the Jouliette token to recognize, control, and distribute locally generated energy. Additionally, it forecasts regional solar generation using Alliander's "Icarus" method.

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SERVICES OF FLEXIBILITY

Variable wind and solar generation is making it difficult for system operators to balance short-term supply and demand without reducing renewable generation in many electricity markets. Increasing the flexibility of the electrical system has significant potential benefits.

For instance, TSO customers in Germany paid almost €800 million in 2016 for steps (redispatch, grid reserve, wind power curtailment) to make sure that electricity transport stayed within the grid's capacity and constraints. The need for new "flexibility" services—those that modify demand or add energy to help with short-term balancing—has grown in recent years.

Blockchain technology has the potential to support the provision of such flexible services by tracking resource availability and automating DER and demand response operations in real time. The "Flexibility Marketplace" from UK-based Electron and trial programs run by grid operator TenneT are among the businesses engaged in this field.

The blockchain-based projects being worked on by IBM, Vandebron, Sonnen, and TenneT, a transmission system operator, aim to improve the flexibility services that are accessible to the operator. In the Vandebron and TenneT pilot project, Vandebron will cooperate with EV owners to make EV battery capacity available so that TenneT can balance the grid. Vandebron will offer this service while maintaining the battery life of EV users' vehicles. Blockchain technology has made it possible for EVs to participate by tracking their availability and how they react to TenneT signals.

A number of residential batteries have been made accessible as part of TenneT's pilot project with sonnen eServices to help balance wind energy intermittency during times of network congestion, when other generators might not be able to contribute to balancing. TenneT will be able to see the status of flexible resources, dispatch resources, and keep track of the batteries' contributions to grid balancing thanks to a blockchain-based interface.

Blockchain technology is also being used for flexibility trading by London-based Electron. The firm created a decentralized demand response platform with assistance from National Grid and Siemens in terms of market design and technical support, and in September 2017 the U.K. government's Energy Entrepreneurs Fund granted it a grant. The business has now established a coalition with the goal of jointly establishing a platform commercialization model. Baringa, EDF Energy, Flexitricity,

Blockchain technology is also being used for flexibility trading by London-based Electron. The firm created a decentralized demand response platform with assistance from National Grid and Siemens in terms of market design and technical support, and in September 2017 the U.K. government's Energy Entrepreneurs Fund granted it a grant. The business has now established a coalition with the goal of jointly establishing a platform commercialization model. Baringa, EDF Energy, Flexitricity, Kiwi Power, Northern Powergrid, Open Energi, Shell, Statkraft, and UK Power Networks are some of the consortium's partners.

COORDINATION AND CHARGING FOR ELECTRIC VEHICLES

System operators are faced with the issues of supplying new EV-related mobile load and, potentially, employing excess stored energy to increase system flexibility as electric vehicles (EVs) gain in popularity. By permitting energy payments at charging stations and allowing drivers to make charging decisions based on maps and real-time pricing information, blockchain technology could facilitate the coordination of EV charging.

MotionWerk's "Share&Charge" app is an illustration of a current endeavor in this field. A P2P service enabling EV and charging point owners to rent their charging infrastructure to one another autonomously and without the need for a middleman was developed in 2016 by Innogy (a subsidiary of German utility RWE). By May 2017, MotionWerk, a startup, had been created in Innogy's "Innovation Hub" incubator. With the help of a smartphone app, its debut solution, "Share&Charge," allowed EV owners to charge their cars while making digital payments.

The application was used by owners of charging stations to make their infrastructure available, establish pricing plans, and collect money. Around 1,000 EV owners had access to the service up until April 2018, and 1,250 private and public charging stations were registered in Germany.

As a P2P transaction layer, the system utilized an e-wallet and smart contracts on the open Ethereum blockchain, together with a "Mobility Token" backed by euros. The first blockchain-based e-mobility transaction platform was called Share & Charge. Share & Charge is currently evolving into an open source and decentralized digital protocol for charging electric vehicles based on end-user experience and lessons learned from various pilot efforts in the EU and the US that MotionWerk undertook (such as the Oslo2Rome project).

In addition to other advantages, it is planned to make it possible for charge point operators and emobility service providers to entirely decentralize their e-mobility assets. This will make the processes for managing, paying, and settling for charging EVs simpler. Outside of Germany, Share & Charge is also being tested. A peer-to-peer charging marketplace powered by blockchain and tested by US-based EV charger startup eMotorWerks (a member of the Enel group) has allowed drivers to exchange payments for the use of their home chargers. Share&Charge is the platform that eMotorWerks utilizes.

MANAGEMENT AND SECURITY OF NETWORKS

The incorporation of DER and digital technologies has increased the complexity of the distribution system. Modern DSOs and TSOs are challenged with storing and analyzing extremely huge amounts of data, as well as better comprehending the system's current condition. Increasing digitisation has also made power systems more susceptible to cyberattacks.

By automatically updating verified network asset condition data, blockchains could improve network management. Furthermore, because to its built-in redundancy, tamper-proof nature, and lack of a single point of attack, blockchain technology could automatically defend against gridrelated cyber-threats. There aren't many active projects utilizing blockchain technology to improve network security and management.

The first is being led by the cybersecurity firm Guardtime. The UK's nuclear power plants, energy grid, and other crucial infrastructure are being protected by Guardtime utilizing permissioned blockchain-based technologies. The Keyless Signature Infrastructure (KSI) offered by Guardtime enables time, location, and authenticity verification of signed data as well as continuous system operation monitoring, increased historical data veracity, and enhanced critical infrastructure cybersecurity.

MARKETS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ATTRIBUTES

In many nations and jurisdictions, market-based initiatives to encourage the use of renewable energy sources and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions already exist. These consist of cap and trade programs, carbon taxes, and carbon offset schemes. The expensive reliance on manual audit procedures, the systems' constrained geographic scope, and the centralized and secretive management are common problems. Such difficulties may lead to expensive transactions and even fraud. By "tokenizing" renewable characteristics and putting them on a blockchain, some of these issues can be solved.

A central verification agency may not be required if environmental attribute generation and transactions are maintained on blockchains. This is because, with the right governance structures, data saved on a blockchain may be made accurate and safe. A project in this area is SolarCoin, a cryptocurrency that encourages solar energy and aims to lower audit costs, increase transparency, and increase the liquidity of solar-derived credits.

After claims of generation by registered facilities are reported to the SolarCoin Foundation or a partner organization, SolarCoin is given to solar generators. Smart meters can also automatically produce claims, and all of these transactions are recorded on the SolarCoin blockchain.

SolarCoins have been issued in 58 countries as of March 2018, and rising demand for the cryptocurrency is ultimately intended to encourage the use of sustainable energy sources. For each kilowatt- hour that solar panels produce, producers are given renewable energy credits (RECs) by the design company IDEO CoLab, which has linked its skills with the Linq platform from Nasdaq and the hardware from IoT business Filament. The pilot initiative aims to make it simple for small solar energy producers to track, verify, and exchange power.

LIMITATIONS THAT COULD BE RELATED TO THE ELECTRICITY INDUSTRY'S STRUCTURE

Many people believe that running power networks is a "natural monopoly" activity. Simply put, this indicates that a single entity—either a TSO or DSO—rather than rival companies, provides the transmission and distribution of energy services at least cost. The operation of the transmission and distribution networks is stated to benefit from "Economies of Scale": the average cost of network operation for a grid operator decreases as the size of the operated network rises.

Network operators are exclusively accountable for specific functions due to their positions as natural monopolies. For instance, TSOs are the only ones in charge of constantly balancing the supply and demand of power across the whole grid.

All electrical transactions, including local P2P transactions, must be reconciled with the TSO, which is in charge of preserving the grid's security.

So long as they are still linked to the main grid, resilient P2P communities may form, but they are unlikely to ever run independently from grid operators.

"Economies of scope" are believed to exist in services linked to network functioning in addition to economies of scale. Network operators are likely to offer a variety of related services at a cheaper cost than if those services were offered competitively because they are familiar with the operational features and planning requirements of their network. DSOs, as opposed to disintermediated blockchain-based platforms or independent organizations that are less experienced with the network, may be able to efficiently coordinate the dispatch of DER-provided bulk power system services at a reduced cost. To the extent that DER-to-wholesale markets develop, it may be advantageous for DSOs to coordinate these markets rather than for them to operate primarily in a disintermediated manner.

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Conclusion

The majority of the attempts outside of the aforementioned groups have tried to use blockchain to manage a sizable number of assets. Fortum, a Finnish startup, promises to assist electricity users in controlling a variety of internet-connected products. It attempts to save consumers money by controlling and tracking the energy use of appliances like heaters in response to price signals from the grid. (However, in order for consumers to really harness their appliances in support of the grid's demands, a distribution market and a system operator who sets granular prices must be created.)
In order to manage their assets more effectively, some utilities are also looking to blockchain networks. The start-up, for instance In order to help an Australian utility enhance its maintenance efforts.
Filament is collaborating with the utility to deploy sensors and record weather and grid infrastructure health data on a blockchain network. Additionally, the Office of Gas and Power Markets (Ofgem), the country's energy watchdog, is attempting to register customers' electricity meters as digital objects on a blockchain network. By facilitating quick and seamless transactions between clients and the retailers of their choosing, the aim is to enable customers to transfer retail electricity providers quickly. Currently, the switching procedure can take up to three weeks.
Finally, some projects have attempted to use blockchain technology to improve the security of electrical power infrastructure. For instance, a combined effort between Siemens and US government agencies, including as the Departments of Energy and Defense, is doing a pilot test of leveraging the blockchain's underlying cryptographic algorithms to safeguard vital power sector infrastructure and guard against unauthorized intrusions.

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