What is the Blockchain when applied to the field of energy?
According to Wikipedia, it is an ICT technology for information storage and information transmission, which is transparent, secure, and operates without a central control body.
Indeed, it is thanks to these features that the Blockchain is the technology behind electronic currencies such as the Bitcoin. It has been existing for 8 years and now appears to be applicable to many other fields: insurance, banking, notarial and... energy!
A revolutionary technology? Not in itself, because it is technically based on existing elements. However, what is fully revolutionary is the fact that it works without a central control body.
In the field of energy, applying such technology to our exchange networks could eventually mean a potential shift of power from energy companies to producers and consumers.
Indeed, with this technology, producers and consumers of energy, close to each other, could sell and purchase energy without going through an energy company. We’re talking about a potential paradigm shift for all players in the energy sector. We can just see here the very beginning of a possible upcoming upheaval.
What uses for photovoltaics?
Practically, let’s talk about the projects that were presented during the symposium. All these initiatives are bound to photovoltaics which is the core business of Tecsol, the conference organiser. However, each of them is truly innovative as they may be applied by local governments which gives them a real interest for the Energy Cities members.
Collective self-consumption from a real estate
The French Département of Pyrénées-Orientales presented a project of photovoltaic systems installed on its own buildings. The institution selected 12 buildings with the best conditions to install photovoltaic power plants and energy production: roof surfaces, orientations, exhibitions, landscape integration, etc.
Through Blockchain, the electricity produced on these 12 sites will be consumed in the 21 buildings owned by the organisation. Both producing and consuming buildings will exchange information on electricity supply and demand, and will primarily consume the energy produced by the organisation. Photovoltaic power plants and buildings of the institution will exchange energy using the existing electrical grid without going through energy companies.
Individual self-consumption for collective housing
Fuel poverty is increasing at a tremendous rate in Europe. In France, by 2020, the electricity price could be multiplied by 2 compared to 2012 which will exacerbate the problem, hence the importance of finding solutions for social housing.
Tecsol patented a system based on the Blockchain that would be applicable to social housing. Indeed, thanks to this technology, the electricity generated by a photovoltaic plant installed on the roof could be self-consumed by the tenants of the dwelling itself.
Several social organisations which support parts of the rents of the households affected by fuel poverty have already shown a strong interest in the system that would enable to invest in the energy transition while reducing electricity bills for tenants.
Consumption in roaming - electric mobility
The Blockchain will also have an impact on our mobility. A pilot project is the work of the French City of Perpignan including the Tecsol design office and the Sunchain start-up. 100 vehicles are expected to be concerned by the project.
The City of Perpignan wishes to set up a fleet of autonomous electric vehicles to revitalise the city centre. These autonomous vehicles could be Google self-driving cars or Renault Zoe. At this stage, the choice hasn’t been made yet.
This is the first project of its kind in France. In a first step, 50 vehicles will be recharged by solar energy on dedicated charging stations. The Blockchain allows for ensuring that the power will come from solar energy. The fleet will consume solar electricity produced by photovoltaic power plants nearby.
In practice, the user will order the car from an application on their smartphone. The car will come and pick up the person at home. Autonomous car will drop the passenger, for example in the city center. It will then automatically go to park or pick up someone else.
The project is expected to create ten jobs for the company operating the vehicle fleet.
These are a few ongoing projects in France which show the first applications of the Blockchain the field of energy. Many others are also being developed in France and in Europe. We are only dealing with pilot projects at this stage. It seems that this is a topic to follow closely in the months and years ahead as local governments will certainly be at the front of these major organisational changes.
If you are involved in, or know about similar projects including the Blockchain as a key item, please let us know. We would be very keen on sharing them in the Energy Cities Newsletter and in the Energy Cities Blog.