The hearing on energy and natural resources, held by the U.S. Senate Committee in Washington, DC, focused on the application of blockchain and related technologies, as well as the cybersecurity possibilities of using such technologies in the energy industry.
In particular, the committee considered the issue of the possible increase in electricity prices following the rising power demand in blockchain applications. The hearing also touched on the methods of evaluating whether blockchain can improve the cybersecurity of the computing systems used to supply energy.
Among the speakers, Thomas A. Golden, program manager at Electric Power Research Institute (ERPI), reported that the institute’s research on blockchain and its capabilities led to several pilots that have demonstrated potential promise in the deployment of blockchain to enable transactive energy.
ERPI established a Utility Blockchain Interest Group (UBIG) consisting of almost 40 energy companies in order to raise awareness and provide information about the technology. Additionally, the institute has launched the development of a blockchain-based energy market simulator.
Claire Henly, managing director at Energy Web Foundation, addressed the problem of the energy usage of Bitcoin and similar networks while also outlining that there are “valuable potential applications of blockchain in the energy sector.” As per Henly, blockchain can render energy markets more efficient and open, while there are still some critical issues that should be solved before blockchain can contribute to the energy sector at scale.
Arvind Narayanan, associate professor of computer science at Princeton University, contributed with his perspective on the potential draws of the new technology, arguing:
“A blockchain-based market might be more attractive than a centralized trading platform if market participants are averse to a single company controlling the platform. Other initiatives enable customers to directly trade electricity with each other in a ‘peer to peer’ fashion, for example, by buying and selling excess rooftop solar power. However, peer-to-peer trading still requires the cooperation of utilities who ultimately control the physical flow of electricity.”
Speaking about cybersecurity, Narayanan said that blockchain brings the potential benefits of tackling the risks to the cybersecurity of energy systems, pointing out that “policy makers should view it as one of several possible technical tools for addressing energy cybersecurity.”
At the end of July, the chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Christopher Giancarlo spoke about his agency’s interest in blockchain tech during another Congressional hearing, underlining the need for appropriate measures to be enabled that would allow the CFTC to consider blockchain tech implementation in the future.