rss
13

Bitcoin-inspired peer-to-peer solar trading trial kicks off in Perth

Print Friendly

One Step Off The Grid

A Perth start-up is set to begin trials of its blockchain-based software program that, if successful, could mean the beginning of peer-to-peer energy trading in Australia, in which consumers buy, sell or swap excess solar electricity directly with each other, rather than to the grid for a minimal return.

05-19-rooftop-solar-in-australia

The company, Power Ledger, will begin the trials later this month, which will be conducted in conjunction with National Lifestyle Villages. The eight week trial will involve 10 households and about 20 people at NLV’s Busselton Lifestyle Village, on the Western Power network.

Jemma Green – Power Ledger’s chair, who co-founded the company with Dave Martin and Jenny Conroy – says the aim of the pilot project is to enable producers and consumers to trade their energy directly, saving money, hassle and maximising the use of rooftop solar.

Blockchain is the software that underpins bitcoin, the virtual currency that has proved popular in many markets. Blockchain is now being seen as a revolutionary new step in many other markets, including in energy.

The technology works, like bitcoin, to identify the ownership of energy as it is generated and then to manage multiple trading agreements between consumers who buy excess solar direct from the original owner/producer, without the addition of market costs and commercial margins.

“It’s a software program that tracks the movement of electricity from point to point,” Green explained in an interview with One Step Off The Grid on Friday. “It handles the financial transactions off the back of it as well.

“Presently, if you’ve got surplus solar electricity you sell it back for a low feed-in tariff and buy it back (from the grid) for a high rate. Using (Power Ledger), you can sell it to your neighbour at somewhere between the two” – less than the uniform tariff but more than you would get from selling it to their retailer, Green said.

For example, rather than exporting excess solar to the grid for 6-7c/kWh and then buying electricity at a rate of 23c/kWh, you can sell it for 15c/kWh, which is around 10c/kWH after grid access costs are paid to the retailer.

“Effectively, we’re cutting out the middle-man to save consumers, and to maximise returns for producers,” she said.

“It’s a win for the people who have been able to afford to invest in roof-top solar, but also a win for customers who haven’t: they will be able to access clean, renewable energy at effectively a ‘wholesale’ rate. Everyone wins.

And in saying that, Green also means the incumbent power industry – as much as this disruptive technology might seem to be cutting their lunch.

4549

Green says network operators in both WA and Victoria have been receptive to trialling the blockchain technology, and WA retailer Synergy is said to be “supportively involved” in discussions on a 2017 trial in the Perth metro area.

“There need to be new commercial models given the use of centralised energy is declining – and battery storage is likely to exacerbate that.”

Green says energy industry incumbents have a window of about two years – the time she and many others estimate it will take before battery storage becomes economic for the majority of Australian households – to sort out their future business models.

“If you see the grid as a trading platform instead of just poles and wires, then you can start to thing about how can consumers be a positive part of that.

“There are quite significant opportunities in this paradigm.

“If you can enable people with solar to sell power to each other, they’ll be sending it across the grid (rather than storing it in batteries) which will maintain the use of the grid – and therefore the value of it,” Green said.

For retailers, she adds, it will be about building relationships with the consumers to facilitate the trading.

“For example, within a strata building you might have the strata own 49 per cent of the solar and battery system, while 51 per cent is owned by the retailer who also provides differential power.”

Green also believes the Power Ledger platform could boost solar uptake, prompting installations that might not have happened before.

“For example,” she told One Step, “you might have a local govt authority that has demand in one area and no roof space for solar.” In situations like this, she says, they could install a solar array in one spot and transfer the electricity generated to where it is needed.

“Consumers don’t like selling their power back to the retailer and buying it back at a higher price.

Using this platform, Green adds, “they can gift the electricity to their mother or anyone else; sell it when they want at the price they want.

“The benefits of distributed renewable energy will flow on to those who, at the moment, can least afford to participate; we think that’s pretty special.”

The Busselton trial will run for eight weeks, after which time Greens says Power Ledger will be announcing another trial in Perth’s south west. The company is also working on securing sites for a trial on the NEM in Victoria, and hopes to enter into commercial trials of the technology in 2017.

“We see this very much as a global product; a product of global significance. So it’s exciting to me that it’s happening (first) in Perth,” Green said, noting that WA was shaping up to be a leader in adoption of new energy technologies.

“They’re really aware of the declining utilisation of the grid and the economic importance of innovating.”  

Share this:

  • JeffJL

    Selfish ‘solution’ for the community problem of de-carbonising the electricity market.

    • Diana

      Hi JeffJL – what did you mean by selfish ‘solution’? Interested in your thoughts. I’m curious myself as to how those least likely to be able to afford and manage solar on their roof will be some of the biggest beneficiaries (seems to be the implication here) – I just assume the prices above are an indicator, but as with any form of buying and selling one bids on prices and availability becomes an issue, which could make it volatile, etc.

      • JeffJL

        Let me preface my reply by saying that exports into the grid need a fair price, and that a fair price is not being paid across Australia at the moment.

        It is selfish as currently the supply of electricity is socialised (ie costs are spread across the community). The price we pay per kWh is higher than the wholesale cost as some of the price of supply is included in the cost, thus the more people use electricity the greater the contribution to the ‘poles and wires’. By bypassing this equalizing of cost they are passing higher costs onto those who are not as technologically aware (generally the less well off).

        The connection/supply charges we pay do not cover the actual costs for supply (see above). Using the above trading will be using the supply system at a discount. Hence, making the trading profit artificially high.

        I have no issues with being able to buy a solar system external to the property (either solo or as part of a bigger system) and have that power offset against your power usage/charges. Nor a system which allows strata bodies to put a solar system on a block of flats and distribute the power produced to all/some of the residents in the block. Both, to me, are good plans for people who have properties which are not suitable for PV power generation or for renters.

        Sorry for the long post. Hope that explains my calling the system selfish and my mindset regarding the electricity supply system.

        • MaxG

          I understand where you are coming from… the problem is that any future solution is just a band-aid to reduce the effects of a privatised monopoly. Two proper solutions would be the grid back in public hands and a government that represents its people. Both, I cannot see happen…

        • Chris Fraser

          Synergy plans on taking $70/MWh off the top of this trade for transmission costs. They’re not exactly losing …

      • Greg Hudson

        G’Day Diana. By my understanding, ‘the ones who can least afford it’ are the ones without solar, and they could ‘buy’ from local solar arrays (on private homes) at 15c/kWh (as an example).

  • Davd Woodgrove

    Which retailer will be the first to pilot this in Victoria?

    • Mike Shackleton

      I’m with Powershop, and they are trialing a “Local Solar Product” where you can buy rooftop solar off households on the same distribution network. They collect a 4 cent per kWh premium which is returned to Powershop customers with rooftop solar, on top of their standard feed-in tariff.

      • Tim Forcey

        Mike, in what region of Australia do you live, can I ask.

  • empower electricity

    fantastic!

  • Daniel

    Peer-to-peer trading would create a huge financial incentive to increase grid utilisation in urban centres and rural country towns. Batteries would remain essential for fringe of grid areas with long vulnerable runs of poles and wires.

  • MaxG

    Wait until the network increase the prices for network usage; while giving discounts to the big retailers, and the system falls into a heap. This game cannot not be won based on the unequal footing it stands on.
    … while I have concluded a while ago that ultimate disconnection is the only way out of this madness (given the current scenario).

  • Jonathan Prendergast

    Good to see investment in such innovation.