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Origin Energy trials solar trading with blockchain start-up Power Ledger

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One Step Off The Grid

Image: Origin Energy

Image: Origin Energy

Another of Australia’s major power retailers, Origin Energy, has dipped its toe into the peer-to-peer energy trading future, with the launch of a trial with Perth-based blockchain energy market provider, Power Ledger.

According to a statement from the two companies on Thursday, the three-month technical trial, starting in October, will use “anonymised and historical” data from Origin customers to explore the benefits and challenges of peer-to-peer energy trading across the regulated network.

In particular, the trial aims to prove the accuracy and security of an energy trading platform based on “cryptocurrency,” a concept that remains foreign to many.

Power Ledger, whose P2P solar trading platform was launched at the White Gum Valley housing development in Fremantle last year, uses blockchain technology to allow consumers to trade rooftop solar energy with one another, without the addition of market costs and commercial margins.

Results of another trial, involving 10 households and about 20 people at the Busselton Lifestyle Village, on the Western Power network, is said to have showed that households could save $A600 a year on their electricity bills using Power Ledger’s peer-to-peer trading.

“It’s a software program that tracks the movement of electricity from point to point,” company chair and co-founder Jemma Green explained in an interview with One Step Off The Grid at the time. “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.

Essentially, Power Ledger’s is one of a suite of smart, internet-of-things innovations that people like Australian Energy Market Operator chief Audrey Zibelman expect will play an important role in future grids – by harnessing valuable distributed energy resources like Australia’s millions of rooftop solar systems, rather than leaving them invisible to network operators, behind the meter.

Another – officially launched at the start of this month, in collaboration with a number of the nation’s top power retailers and generators, although not Origin – is GreenSync’s deX: an open decentralised energy exchange where energy capacity can be transacted between businesses, households, communities and utilities.

Origin’s trial with Power Ledger brings the company up to speed with an increasing number of its main rivals, including AGL, which partnered with IBM and Marchment Hill Consulting on a ”desktop” blockchain technology-based trial backed by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.

As we have seen with the deX, in particular, energy majors like Origin and AGL and EnergyAustralia are quickly realising the importance of collaborating with start-up innovators like Power Ledger and GreenSync, or else risk missing out on future revenue streams.

As Power Ledger’s Dr Green noted last year, this is particularly the case for retailers.

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

“Consumers don’t like selling their power back to the retailer and buying it back at a higher price.” Using this platform, she added, “they can gift the electricity to their mother or anyone else; sell it when they want at the price they want.”

For Power Ledger – which just two weeks ago successfully sold out a $17 million “initial coin offering” (ICO) over the course of just three days – the trial with Origin will mark its first run with a major energy company.

Power Ledger managing director, David Martin said in comments on Thursday that working with Origin would be a major step towards demonstrating the power of the blockchain to unlock the value of consumer-owned distributed energy resources.

“The technical trial with Origin allows us to test this new and potentially disruptive technology with one of the industry’s biggest players,” he said.

“Peer-to-peer energy trading presents an opportunity to unlock enormous value for consumers, it disintermediates the energy supply model putting consumers in direct contact with other consumers.

“Exploring technology options with Origin that could allow consumers to take more control of their energy purchasing options highlights how the needs and expectations of energy users are changing in Australia and reflects Origin’s stated commitment to delivering innovative energy solutions to its customers,” he said.

Tony Lucas, Origin’s head of Future Energy, said the Power Ledger trial was part of the gen-tailer’s commitment to exploring and trialling a range of emerging technologies.

“While it’s still fairly early days for this technology, we are keen to explore the potential benefits that peer-to- peer energy trading could offer our customers,” Lucas said.

“Power Ledger is one of a number of emerging technologies we’re currently exploring, which we believe could help us meet the changing needs of our customers.

“We hope the trial will help us better understand the value proposition for consumers, as well as the regulatory and technical implications of the peer-to- peer trading model.”

This article was originally published on RenewEconomy’s sister site, One Step Off The Grid, which focuses on customer experience with distributed generation. To sign up to One Step’s free weekly newsletter, please click here.  

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