As we move into a more decentralised system of power supply, the complexity of connecting many more participants, balancing supply with demand, and keeping track of who’s generating or using what, presents a significant challenge.
The ‘smart’ grid that many believe needs to be built to facilitate all this is forecast to require significant investment – and take time.
But the beauty of technological innovation is that sometimes completely new solutions present themselves.
A new way to update the energy network
In the case of Blockchain technology, this may provide a more cost-effective answer to updating old centralised networks and systems.
Blockchain aims to provide a flexible, reliable and cost-effective way for operational or financial transactions to be recorded and validated across a distributed network.
This could facilitate, for example, a business to sell its on-site generation directly to the business next door, or for a consumer to seamlessly switch from one energy supplier to another, with all the necessary data instantly transferred.
Fuelling a machine-to-machine economy
According to Carsten Stöcker, who works within our parent company Innogy’s Innovation Hub (and calls himself a Blockchain Evangelist): “Our hypothesis is there will be a machine-to-machine economy in which machines carry out transactions among themselves. Decentralised internet technologies like Blockchain will become the transaction layer for this.”
Already, Innogy has launched hundreds of Blockchain-powered charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) across Germany.
These work with a special app to allow users to locate their nearest charger and then instantly exchange the operational and payment information required to facilitate charging via a secure system.
This app has been developed by Share&Charge, which connects EV drivers with charging stations – whether they be supplied by a business such as Innogy, or by private individuals looking to earn revenue by ‘renting out’ their chargers. It’s bit like an Airbnb for EV chargers – all underpinned by Blockchain technology.
Giving your car financial power
The Innogy team are now working on what they are calling a Car eWallet, which could turn your car into an economically independent vehicle.
For example, having a Car eWallet will mean you no longer need to queue to pay a highway toll, or have to search around for cash or credit cards to pay for parking or EV charging. Instead, your car will pay automatically and send you a notification.
It’s envisaged the Car eWallet could also help you to earn money by collecting payments for car-sharing or delivery services. It can even authorise a third party to deliver a package to the boot of your car, while still protecting your vehicle.
Next stop – inductive charging
And that’s not all. Blockchain’s micropayments feature means that EV owners will no longer need to drive around looking for a charging station.
Through ‘inductive charging’, cars can simply charge up while waiting at a red light, for example, using Car eWallet to transact the smallest of payments.
I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more Blockchain applications in many different areas of the energy market over the coming years. So watch this space…