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The energy market’s silent revolution

Jemma Green 

By Jemma Green
Chair and Co-founder, Power Ledger Pty Ltd

 

When is a power network not a power network?

When it’s the platform for an economic revolution…

 

You may not realise it but Australians are bearing witness to a revolution. It’s a silent revolution so you might have missed it but if you step outside and look up you’re almost guaranteed to see the evidence of this revolution on the roofs of houses in your very own street. And the next street. And the street after that…

More than 220,000 Western Australian homes have solar panels. That’s about one in every five homes on the Western Power network. In the past five years, there was more rooftop photovoltaic (PV) generating capacity installed in Australia than large-scale generation.

So what’s so revolutionary about that? Everything…

Energy systems like the one we have in the south west of WA were designed to carry electricity in one direction – from large centralised generators out to consumers via long transmission and distribution networks. But with rooftop PV systems, energy is flowing in multiple directions.

It’s not just the physical system designed this way but the market system as well. That’s why people with excess energy have always had to sell their surplus energy to their retailer only to buy it back when the sun goes down. Until now…

Blockchain technology has emerged and is giving us an opportunity to change the way we buy and sell electricity. Blockchain technology – a centralised ledger that autonomously and securely facilitates and records transactions – can be used to allow consumers with PV systems to sell their excess energy to their neighbour using the electricity network.

The network isn’t just a one-way delivery mechanism, it’s a platform that can allow people to monetise their excess solar energy. At the same time, it gives consumers without PV systems an opportunity to buy clean, green energy from their neighbour for less than they would have to pay their retailer.

It's win, win, win.

Owners of PV systems win by selling energy to their neighbours at a price greater than the 7c/kWh feed-in tariff. Consumers win because they pay their neighbour less than they would pay their retailer for their energy and the environment wins because we build an incentive for more and more people to install rooftop PV systems.

Blockchain technology is changing the way markets operate and it will change the way we buy and sell electricity and the power network will allow it to happen.

Jemma Green is the Chair and Co-founder of blockchain-based energy trading company Power Ledger Pty Ltd and a Research Fellow at Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute (CUSP). Power Ledger is presently in trial phase, with a number of trials across Australia and New Zealand. The intention is that it will be more widely available in the market place in the near future.

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