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Is blockchain a game changer for the energy sector or a passing chimera?

|June 14, 2018
Written by

Oliver Buckley

Senior Associate Director

Last week the Energy Practice at Madano (NATIONAL’s sister agency in the U.K.) hosted a panel event exploring the opportunities around blockchain, including the technology’s potential benefits and limitations for the energy sector.

Leading players from across the blockchain for energy space were joined by figures from Government, industry, media and academia. Speakers were Damien Moore MP; Dr Jeff Hardy (Imperial College London); Madeleine Cuff * (Deputy Editor, BusinessGreen); and * Matthew Williams (CTO, Faraday Grid).

As defined by Wikipedia, “a blockchain is a decentralized, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the consensus of the network.”

When it comes to the energy sector, blockchain could provide a secure platform for consumers and businesses to buy and sell energy from each other and supports the transition to a decentralized energy system with demand side response (DSR) to balance the electricity grid. To learn more about the possible applications of blockchain in Canada’s energy sector, please reach out to our experts.

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With blockchain dominating media headlines and revolutionising the way we think about trading currency, we asked whether the technology really can work in a low value commodity sector like energy? Whilst it may still be too early to tell, here are our three key takeaways from the discussion:

1. Blockchain is one of many enabling technologies for a future energy system

Blockchain has clearly come on leaps and bounds in the past few years and it is a technology that could enable new entrants and new services in the energy market. But as a nascent technology, there is still uncertainty about the most effective applications for blockchain across the energy sector. For this reason it’s critical to be open to experimentation. Blockchain is a piece of the jigsaw but no one is quite sure yet where it fits.

2. Consumers should feed into the development of a future energy system

We need to put the consumer at the heart of any decision making. If market participants want to build a better energy system using blockchain, this requires consumers to say what they want and how they want to use energy, heat and transport (especially EVs). They also need to be clear on how much data they’re willing to share. Conversely, the question remains as to whether consumers really care that much – just look at how many consumers stay on old, expensive energy tariffs.

3. UK Government needs to present its vision of the future energy system

Market participants will benefit if the UK Government is clear on what it wants to achieve in a future energy system. This is of course difficult to define, not least because data is fragmented and held by different people and companies in different places. Even so, companies and investors will benefit from having something to work towards. It needs to be clarified how such a market will be regulated and who is the ultimate ‘backstop’ if there are mistakes or something goes wrong.

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One thing is for sure: the future energy system is going to look very different from how it looks today. That presents the industry not just with business challenges but also with communications challenges as companies look to build and roll out their products, and consumers react to new market conditions and choices.

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Written by Oliver Buckley, Senior Associate Director
Madano, sister company of NATIONAL Public Relations