Blockchain and the Future of Energy
The Blockchain Live team sat down with Maher Chebbo, Global Chief Commercial & Innovation Officer at GE and Blockchain Live 2019 panelist, to talk about the new business models, opportunities, and efficiencies that will come from blockchain adoption.
How will blockchain transform enterprise? Chebbo’s sober response is that we need to stop seeing it as a transformation. Rather, blockchain will bolster ready existing systems: “It is a further automation of something that already exists, whether they are management processes, payments, for example, peer to peer (P2P) transactions, or controls that could be used for cyber security.” The key, so says Chebbo, is that it can help provide better visibility and quality of the information we need in real time.
Efficient and secure data management is desired in all industries, but it is easy to see why a sector with as many players as energy would benefit from decentralised control. Stakeholders include, but are not limited to: commercial and individual consumers; distribution grid companies; aggregators; generators; transmission system operators; and regulators. Each data point must contribute information to provide operational efficiency. As Chebbo explains, no single stakeholder wants to control the platform.
And the number of data points within the energy sector is set to increase: with the emergence of more efficient renewable energies, energy generation itself is likely to become decentralised, sourced not from central power plants, but across individual wind farms, or solar panels on individual roofs.
“Today we live in a world where almost 80% is centralised and 20% decentralised,” says Chebbo, “and if we move to 2020 when we are talking about decarbonising a lot of cities in the world, decarbonising Europe, we will then be in a situation of 80% decentralised and 20% centralised.” This, of course, multiplies the number of systems to manage: “It’s very easy to manage five or ten power plants somewhere in the country. It’s very difficult to manage hundreds, thousands, millions, of distributed wind turbines or solar panels.” Blockchain is an attractive solution because it offers automated, permanent verification of the data produced by these generators.
Not only is this great for system operations within energy companies, but in the end, it has the customer in mind: the goal is to produce energy that is as “close, clean, and as cheap as possible. If it is decentralised then it can be geographically close, if it is renewable then it is clean, and as technology pushes us to develop new business models, prices become more competitive too.”
So, if blockchain is likely to disrupt anything it is in creating new business models which will transform the consumer’s relationship to energy. With blockchain removing middlemen and increasing transaction speeds, individuals with excess renewable energy will be able to trade directly with their peers instead of selling it back to the grid. This, of course, relies on having modern microgrids – something which the UK currently lacks. Beyond the UK, however, it is only a question of when. Chebbo describes a project that GE are carrying out in Philadelphia, where they are creating a portal to manage P2P transactions using blockchain: “The portal would create a community, and we could manage the P2P transactions between these different tenants by managing the validation and recording.”
I asked if he had doubts about embracing new technologies. Ever the optimist, Chebbo replies that “there are always more reasons not to do something than to do something.” It is a question of practical processes, too: “If a new technology or opportunity can bring more efficient services and fresh business models, then the processes are known: we check it, we test it, we proto-type it, and if it works it works – there are no secrets.”
He highlights that cross-industry collaboration will be crucial for taking advantage of this new era of digitalisation. “I am looking forward to the event, Blockchain Live, to exchange ideas, to listen to others, and see what kind of projects are taking place.” Whether considering the future of energy, finance, or supply chain management, balanced conversations on blockchain’s advantages – and indeed challenges – will shape the future of enterprise. Gathering industry leaders and blockchain experts, Blockchain Live drives meaningful discussions on harnessing the benefits of emerging technology, bringing a blockchain enabled world into reality.
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Join Maher Chebbo at Blockchain Live on 25th September on the Business Summit, alongside BP‘s Julian Gray, and Molly Webb from Energy Unlocked.
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