At the core of Bitcoin is its unique way of organizing and storing transaction data, called the blockchain. While there are various iterations of it, this technology is a central aspect of almost all cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin pioneered the concept of the blockchain, paving the way for a multitude of innovative projects both within and beyond the cryptocurrency space. The Australian startup Power Ledger is bringing this technology to the world of renewable energy.
Building Decentralised Energy Grids Using Blockchain
Australia’s first ICO (Initial Coin Offering), Power Ledger raised $34 million with participation from roughly 15,000 investors. The focus of Power Ledger is to build decentralised energy grids using a blockchain-based infrastructure. This would enable people generating solar or wind energy to sell surplus energy to others, fostering community-based micro-grids and energy marketplaces.
Individual investors aren’t the only ones lending support to Power Ledger. The Australian government recently awarded an $8 million grant to a renewable energy project based in the city of Fremantle that will sit atop Power Ledger’s infrastructure.
The Fremantle project will serve as a case study in the potential for using Power Ledger’s technology to manage energy and water distribution within a precinct. Renewable energy infrastructure including a solar power plant, rooftop solar panels, a large battery, a water capture and treatment facilities, and a charging station for electric vehicles will be synced to Power Ledger’s architecture.
As recently as December, 2017, Power Ledger announced another project, this time working with the renewable energy provider BCPG to develop the first South East Asian blockchain-based microgrid in Bangkok. With support from the Thai government, the project will include 6-10 multi-story apartment buildings working with 1-2 megawatts of solar-generated energy. BCPG’s renewable energy infrastructure will be integrated with Power Ledger’s cryptographically secure peer-to-peer marketplace, allowing building managers or individuals to buy and sell energy efficiently, reducing cost, bureaucracy, and carbon emission.
Peer-to-Peer Energy Trading
Just as Bitcoin’s blockchain was designed to eliminate the need for a third-party to facilitate financial transactions, Power Ledger’s system allows individuals to buy and sell energy directly to one another at prices of their choosing, rather than relying on a centralised utility provider. Creating micro-grids within communities, like the projects in Bangkok and Freemantle, puts energy producers directly in touch with consumers and creates opportunities for individuals to earn by selling their surplus energy.
Ultimately, Power Ledger’s technology is designed to serve as a transaction layer for renewable energy resources. Within communities, energy producers and consumers can transact with one another directly through the Power Ledger framework. Power Ledger has applied Bitcoin’s original concept of transparent, peer-to-peer transactions to the renewable energy marketplace, integrating physical components, like solar panels and batteries, into a blockchain ecosystem.
The applications for blockchain technology to work in tandem with hardware and physical infrastructure are being explored in many other industries, as well, ranging from supply chain management to healthcare. Power Ledger stands out as a forerunner in reaching the implementation stage with the development of their system. For many Bitcoin enthusiasts, it is exciting to see the underlying principles of transparent, peer-to-peer exchange being applied to industries like renewable energy.
Blockchain Technology For A More Sustainable Future
While the Australian government has moved to regulate cryptocurrency exchanges under the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act, Australia is clearly willing to explore the potential for blockchain in developing more efficient and sustainable infrastructure. Globally, regulators in many major countries have started to take notice of growing cryptocurrency markets with varying degrees of intensity. Regulatory agencies are faced with the challenge of mitigating abuse, scams, and illegal activity without suppressing innovation in a highly experimental and rapidly evolving space.
It is impossible to predict what the future will look like on a national and global scale in terms of regulations on the digital asset economy, but government support of Power Ledger may prove to be a promising indicator of Australia’s willingness to explore the radical potential for new technology. As the international community begins to devote more attention to renewable energy, curbing carbon emissions, and designing smarter cities, Power Ledger’s technological layer represents one of the many innovative opportunities for blockchain technology to contribute to building a more sustainable future.