by Jason Deign, Solarplaza

The database system underpinning the bitcoin currency could serve to record distributed energy transactions, an expert says.

The database system underpinning bitcoin could become the de facto medium of exchange for decentralised solar energy within five years, an expert has said.

“We’re going to decentralised energy production and you’re going to have a huge amount of suppliers and a huge amount of production and producers,” said Vincent Everts, organiser of the Dutch Blockchain Conference, taking place on June 20th in Amstelveen (NL).

Keeping track of financial and energy exchanges between all these actors might be a challenge for trusted third parties such as banks and utilities. But blockchains, the decentralised database system used for keeping bitcoin ledgers, could do the job easily, and in a much more open and transparent way. Blockchains are open-source database systems that hold records of transactions copied across numerous nodes.

Each system is tamper-proof and can authenticate transactions without the need for a trusted third party, making it useful for distributed applications such as residential solar energy generation. While blockchains are generally associated with bitcoin, the transactions they record can be of energy just as easily as value, Everts said. The versatility of blockchains has sparked interest in their use for numerous applications.

For example, said Everts: “This whole blockchain thing is really revolutionising the financial industry.” Earlier this year, the financial trading platform Nasdaq proclaimed the bitcoin blockchain was “the biggest thing since the Internet.” Within the energy sector, LO3 Energy of New York is developing a blockchain-based project called TransactiveGrid that “delivers real-time metering of local energy generation and usage as well as other related data,” the company says.

“This open energy platform is transparent, auditable, non-repudiable, peer-to-peer and cryptographically secure,” says the company on its web site. “Friction in the market is reduced by allowing different classes of users to transact openly.”

Nasdaq, meanwhile, last month lifted the lid on a blockchain application that allows people to sell certificates for solar energy. Solar panels equipped with an Internet connections are hooked up via a service called Filament to a blockchain markets platform called Linq, which creates anonymous certificates that can be sold to third parties. This could potentially give rise to a new market for solar energy, allowing people to buy certificates to offset carbon emissions, for example.

Elsewhere, other companies looking to use blockchains for energy transactions include Grid Singularity in Vienna and Sun Exchange in South Africa. More players are likely to follow soon, Everts said.  

“In our conference we are looking at blockchain as a way of working together in all kinds of industries,” he said. Five years from now, Everts predicted: “You buy a system and you have a choice of maybe 10 blockchain grids that will be either country-related or more standards-related. The technology of battery storage and solar is pretty much done for the next 10 years. This stuff will be the most exciting part of the whole grid transformation.”