An Australian government-backed trial of peer-to-peer solar trading using blockchain technology has found that the technology is popular with users and technically feasible.
The trial, which ran between Dec. 2018 and Jan. 2020, was part of the RENeW Nexus Project, which investigated the potential of localized two-sided energy markets and blockchain technology to improve the energy system.
Among those supporting the project were the Australian Government’s Smart Cities initiative, several Australian universities, Western Power and the Australian blockchain firm Power Ledger.
The results, published on June 18, indicated that the multi-pronged approach pursued in the trial could increase localized energy autonomy by 30–68% and deliver more cost-efficient network outcomes than existing systems.
The context for the project
RENeW Nexus forms part of the Western Australian state government’s research into how to shift away from a centralized large-scale energy generation system and toward a hybrid system that would integrate distributed renewables and battery storage.
Take-up of rooftop solar in the region’s electricity grid, the South West Interconnected System, has reportedly been significantly more advanced than other grid systems and has therefore been identified as a promising way to meet decarbonization goals.
The state government’s Energy Transformation Strategy is studying how to tackle the key challenges involved in moving away from existing systems, such as managing grid stability and encouraging the use of distributed energy resources, while keeping costs low.
The RENeW Nexus trial involved two solar peer-to-peer trading trials in the region and an analysis of the use of virtual power plants from battery systems, which dispatch electricity into the Wholesale Energy Market.
Blockchain’s role in energy strategy
As part of the project, Power Ledger’s blockchain platform — which tracks energy consumption and allows users to sell their surplus solar energy to other residents — will in future be combined with a microgrid that uses a 670 kilowatt hours community battery in order to support inter-household trading.
While the battery remains under construction, the trial’s blockchain-specific benefits have been assessed at this stage.
They were found to include the support of improved auditing, secure trading and fast settlement between energy consumers and retailers. Smart contracts offer the potential to automate interactions and further enhance efficiency and flexibility in the system.
As reported, Power Ledger has been steadily developing its blockchain-enabled renewables trading platform and a series of associated tools through multiple trials and commercial implementations, both in Australia and abroad.