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Companies to join forces for energy blockchain project

Energy companies from nine countries have joined a new non-profit organization that aims to accelerate commercial deployment of blockchain technology in the energy sector.

The non-profit Energy Web Foundation (EWF) is a joint initiative of US-based sustainability consultancy the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and Austrian blockchain developer Grid Singularity. Companies that have joined the EWF include Centrica, Elia, Engie, Royal Dutch Shell, Sempra Energy, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), SP Group, Statoil, Stedin and Technical Works Ludwigshafen (TWL).

Blockchain technology is a secure digital mechanism that enables transactions through peer-to-peer networks. Through a distributed database of ‘blocks’, or timestamped transaction records, a blockchain can operate autonomously and initiate transactions automatically.

EWF says it has identified nearly 200 potential use cases for blockchain technology in the energy sector and, after securing $2.5m in an initial funding round, the group plans to develop a commercial version of a blockchain software platform within two years.

Blockchain technology can allow energy devices such as HVAC systems, water heaters, electric vehicles, batteries and photovoltaic systems to transact with each other at the distribution edge while supporting utilities and grid operators in integrating more utility-scale variable renewable energy capacity at much lower cost, EWF said.  

The group also said the technology can mitigate cybersecurity risks.

Herve Touati, president of the EWF and a managing director at RMI, told Power Engineering International that blockchain represents a decentralized means of optimizing grids for the integration of growing numbers of renewable energy installations.

“We could do this with a centralized unit but this is unsafe for cybersecurity,” he said. With blockchain, “the architecture makes it extraordinarily difficult” for hackers to gain control of connected devices.

Touati said the EWF’s software will be open-source and that his group is “calling everybody in the industry to come and join us, and if people are interested in starting to develop applications they should contact us.”