Power system blockchain solutions

We illustrate the main use case classes - as well as selected projects/initiatives - in the metering and billing, electricity market and trading, system operation and flexibility and electric mobility fields.

3a1. Metering and billing

INTRODUCTION

Several research and innovation initiatives are exploring blockchain uses for metering and billing. This blockchain-enabled microgrid scheme illustrates the role of metering and smart contracts.

When integrated with metering infrastructure, blockchains provide the opportunity for automated billing in energy services for consumers and distributed generators, which comes with the potential of administrative cost reduction.

Blockchains offer traceability of energy produced and consumed, informing consumers about the origins and cost of their energy supply, making energy charges more transparent. This opens up the opportunity for incentivising behavioural change and demand response.

Using blockchains to manage smart meter data also raises security and privacy concerns. If blockchains or distributed ledgers are public, then all parties can be granted access to read the ledger of past transactions. Potential solutions could be anonymizing information (to would make energy consumption information not traceable) or setting up permissioned ledgers where access to data is restricted to authorised parties.


PROSUME is developing a multi-solution decentralised blockchain platform that brings together power producers, consumers and utilities and a variety of applications. PROSUME has developed a flexible platform that can be adapted to different operator needs, local infrastructures and regulatory frameworks. One application is the use of blockchains and data science for smart metering infrastructure and energy billing.

PROSUME is a blockchain-based platform that, thanks to its own decentralized and self-regulated monitoring system, which guarantees an autonomous, independent and digitized smart place that allows users to consume energy coming from green or traditional energy sources, promoting new energy community models.

Prosume allows each user to precisely and instantly monitor their energy consumption and expenditure, providing each load’s data, encouraging sustainable habits and generating energy savings while preserving comfort and choice.

The main challenges are related to the lack of blockchain-ready smart metering infrastructure and the lack of interoperability standards. Those aspects are particularly critical as smart metering infrastructure is already being rolled out in several countries without blockchain features.

Blockchain technology holds the promise of a more decentralised way to manage smart meter data, one that avoids the need for a single data authority.

New developments (see photo): to integrate Prosume software with EUGENIO, a smart home gateway manager. Through an app on a device, e-Prosume allows homeowners to manage various aspects of their everyday lives: energy savings, safety, comfort and smart payments.


Bankymoon is a startup in South Africa that proposes the use of smart meters connected to a blockchain, allowing users to load Bitcoins to enable energy flow. This solution uses cryptocurrency only as a prepaid payment option.

Smart prepaid meters only release power to residential customers once they have topped up their accounts and transferred money to the electricity provider –a kind of mini smart contract.

Bankymoon’s smart meters have their own Bitcoin addresses. When a smart meter receives a Bitcoin payment, Bankymoon calculates the tariff and then loads the meter. The integration of Bitcoin payments into smart metering systems allows users to “send” electricity to anybody else in the world, from anywhere, via their utility meters.

Bankymoon also uses Bitcoin to perform remote payment transactions: donors from, say, industrialized countries who want to support the schools can send crypto-money directly to a smart meter to a school of their choice, thereby allowing the schools to be supplied with electricity automatically.


3a2. Electricity market and trading

INTRODUCTION

Several fully decentralised (peer-to-peer), more centralised ot hybrid market structures can be enabled by blockchain technologies:

  • Full P2P market. This market design is based on peers directly negotiating with each other, in order to sell and buy electric energy. Hence, two peers can agree on a transaction for a certain amount of energy and a price without centralised supervision. In connection with the iconic Brooklyn experiment, a microgrid energy market is developed. This framework enables a local microgrid market without central entity for small agents to trade energy locally.
  • Community-based market. This design is more structured, with a community manager who manages trading activities inside the community, as well as acts as intermediary between the community and the rest of the system. This market design can readily be applied to microgrids or to a group of prosumers who are geographically close or share common interests and goals: for instance, a group of members that are willing to share green energy, though they are not at the same location.
  • Hybrid P2P market. This is a combination of the two previous designs and can be seen as a “Russian doll” approach, where in each layer communities and single peers may interact with each other. At the upper level, one finds individual peers or energy collectives engaging in P2P transactions between themselves, and also interacting with existing markets. At the bottom level, the energy collectives behave like the community-based approach previously introduced, where a community manager oversees the trading inside its community. As shown on the right of the picture, energy collectives can be nested into each other (e.g., buildings and their inhabitants forming an energy collective, being part of another energy collective for the neighborhood).

The Brooklyn microgrid, in New York, is the first example of blockchain-based P2P electricity market.

In summary, prosumers can sell their energy surplus directly to their neighbours by use of Ethereum-based smart contracts and PBFT consensus, implemented by Tendermint.

They considered seven components for the efficient operation of blockchain-based microgrid energy markets (see figure): Microgrid setup (C1), Grid connection (C2), Information system (C3) ->blockchain, Market mechanism (C4), Pricing mechanism (C5), Energy management trading system (EMTS) (C6), Regulation (C7)

Up until 2019, local P2P electricity trading without any utility involvement was not covered by regulation in the BMG’s area. Regulation is needed to legalize any market transactions and classify the market into the overall energy system. The implementation of the market components, i.e. C4, C5, and C6, was only partly realized: the three month trial period did not actively use the market mechanism as only one consumer and one prosumer were trading and the electricity price was predetermined and fixed (thus, a very simple pricing mechanism was implemented).

According to the existing regulation, only electric utilities and approved retail services are allowed to sell energy.

Brooklyn Microgrid had petitioned the state to create a regulatory sandbox to test their project.  This happened in 2020, when the Brooklyn Microgrid was approved to conduct a 12-month pilot program for energy trading. The pilot will involve forty prosumers and 200 consumers. Consumers will be able to bid for excess energy retailed on the market by prosumers using the app. Prosumers will be able to sell excess energy to other consumers, or to sell it back to the utility at net metering rates.


The Enerchain platform developed by PONTON can support the trading of energy products at different scales: Local trading within energy communities, trading of flexibility within distribution grids, and wholesale trading with delivery at the level of balancing zones.

The Enerchain blockchain platform was successfully used to trade energy in 2016, in what they claim was the first energy trade demonstration in Europe via blockchain.

Following the trial, in 2017 PONTON partnered with 44 European energy firms to develop a P2P wholesale energy trading platform supporting a broad range of traded products and also focus on regional markets and different time frames. The Enerchain proof-of-concept was declared as successful in 2019.

PONTON performed several tests to improve the trading process and secured the blockchain infrastructure against cyber-attacks. They reported of having achieved an average end-to-end transaction latency of less than a second (so the system is well suited for trading that requires fast data synchronisation across participants). Enerchain is powered by Tendermint which is a leading open source blockchain engine.

PONTON is a key partner of the German Norddeutsche Energiewende 4.0 (NEW) project aiming to achieve smart trading of flexibility, balancing and local energy through their platform EnerChain.


Power Ledger was founded in Australia in 2016 and it is blockchain-enabled platform aims at making energy trading more efficient.

The startup helps people transact not only energy and renewables but also environmental commodities.

The energy trading platform has been developed on an Ethereum blockchain. POWR tokens are on the Ethereum main network and are freely traded on a number of digital currency exchanges.

They are now in scale up stage of commercialization and their blockchain enabled software is being used by a number of major international energy companies in India, Japan, Thailand, and the United States.

Power Ledger started setting up in Australia microgrids linking clean energy producers and new residential developments. By giving consumers and producers a platform on which to monitor energy production, their sources and their prices, Power Ledger wants to help drive the development of clean and affordable local energy communities.

The regulatory frame however is still uncertain: P2P applications depend on market-specific regulations, making it difficult for Power Ledger to scale and launch their trading platforms in different regions.


The Japanese utility KEPCO and Power Ledger trialed a blockchain-enabled demonstration in Osaka for surplus power peer-to-peer trading (replacing the feed-in tariffs regime)

The trial showed how communities can be provided with cheaper energy systems to offset existing energy costs and allow energy-generating customers to monetize their renewable energy investments by selling their excess energy via Power Ledger’s P2P platform

During the trial, KEPCO shared meter data from eight participating meters that simulated prosumers and consumers at Tatsumi Research Lab in Osaka.

 


3a3. System operation and flexibility

INTRODUCTION

System operation and flexibility services provision can improve in several ways thanks to the blockchain deployment.

A key potential benefit is the improvement of the supply-demand balancing mechanisms and the better coordination between transmission and distribution system operation.

Traditionally, balancing power was purely requested from large generation units, whereas balancing power is provided today by a growing number of smaller generators (for example, California allows small generation units, starting with only 0.5 MW capacity, to participate in the balancing process).

Several blockchain developers are working to explore innovative solutions based on automation and decentralised grid management and control.

Blockchains also face several challenges, including:

  • performances: blockchain systems need to improve significantly in terms of throughput and transaction speeds to achieve real-time verification.
  • Cybersecurity: a huge number of infrastructures, and control and communication systems - already deployed in power networks - might need to be connected to distributed ledgers. This would result in the generation of massive datasets, which need to be carefully safeguarded by cyber-attacks.

 


Equigy is defined as a Crowd Balancing platform: it enables the integration of small and distributed consumer-based units into the electricity-balancing process.

Several Transmission System Operators - Swissgrid (CH), TenneT (DE-NL) and Terna (IT) - are collaborating on this new blockchain-based platform

Owners of consumer devices, electric vehicles for example, can earn money making “flexible” their interaction with the electric grid via an aggregator, affording them an active role in grid-balancing.

TSOs can use the distributed capacity offered by a wide range of sources, including electric cars, heat pumps, water boilers and domestic batteries in private homes. Equigy’s platform will validate all these transactions using blockchain technology.

The system is not exclusive and can operate in synergy with other balancing schemes and tools. The technology and software will be provided free of charge and will be open source.

Equigy aims to be a scalable platform. It is designed to grow not only as more consumers adopt renewable energy solutions in their daily lives, but also by reaching out to other European TSOs to join the platform.


The goal of the German SINTEG funding programme is to drive forward the digitisation of the energy industry and support the transformation of energy systems. Practical tests are being conducted in five model regions across Germany to look at how the smart energy supply of tomorrow can be designed, and how a smart energy system can be established. 

SINTEG has thus become a regulatory sandbox for the digitalisation of the energy transition.

The NEW 4.0 Innovation Alliance, one of the five so-called “SINTEG Model Regions” and a frame for numerous energy projects, allows the grid to better absorb the periodic surpluses produced between Hamburg and the state of Schleswig-Holstein to the north, preventing wind turbines from being shut down.

As part of the joint project ‘North German Energy Transition’ (NEW 4.0), the municipal energy supplier HAMBURG ENERGIE together with Ponton GmbH and other partners, have now successfully tested a market-based energy platform which enables rapid, flexible and secure regional trading of renewables. The platform has the potential to decentralise energy supply so that heavy commercial consumers of electricity can trade directly with the energy plants and even sell back surplus energy.

The marketplace uses blockchain technology to prove the origin of the electricity and speed up transactions to ensure continuous trading and supply. Until now, electricity from renewables and surplus electricity from industrial plants could only be calculated imprecisely, meaning that trading is typically completed on average between half-an-hour and five minutes before delivery.


Gridchain is blockchain-based pilot software (developed by PONTON) that enables real-time grid management (system balancing and congestion management) in future smart grids.

The tool aims to achieve greater coordination between TSOs, aggregators and DSOs and to provide solutions for grid congestion management.

A typical task of transmission system operators is to request balancing energy in order to keep grid load and frequency stable. This process has been practised for a long time and it is deeply entrenched in all participants´ IT systems. On the other hand, distribution system operators continuously monitor load of the distribution grid and take actions to keep it stable at the local level. They need to coordinate planned and unplanned local outages and exceptional congestion situations within local grids e.g. due to an increased share of generation from renewables.

Gridchain is an integrated software that:

  • coordinates balancing power requests among the relevant actors (transmission/distribution system operators, aggregators, and generators) within seconds
  • enables distribution system operators to interact with the balancing request process in congestion situations well before the delivery period and not just at the stage when the generation load is actually ramped up by the aggregator,
  • allows to inform aggregators about adjusting their merit order list depending on short-term load signals,

The next step will be to test this software, which was developed upon request of a group of Austrian DSOs, on the ground with a selection of market participants.


Schoonschip received an exemption from the Dutch Experimental Electricity Law to build a floating water houses complex in Amsterdam connected via a smart grid. The exemption allows the consortium to develop their own private microgrid (behind the meter) with only one central grid connection

46 water houses will be equipped with batteries, heat pumps, a heat storage tank and smart household appliances

A blockchain-based smart grid software will control the battery systems individually and in aggregated form

The Grid-Friends consortium, responsible for developing the Schoonschip project, includes: two European research institutes, Stichting Centrum Wiskunde and Informatica (CWI) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics (ITWM); Spectral Utilities, a systems integration and clean-tech development startup based in Amsterdam; Evohaus, a German green construction firm.

Regulatory sandboxes bring together regulators, companies, and tech experts to test innovative solutions and identify obstacles that arise in deploying them

They are increasingly used in a range of sectors, often testing emerging technologies or innovative uses of existing technologies


The JRC Demand Response blockchain demonstrator tests the feasibility and scalability of flexibility services provided by electric vehicles and storage units.

Today the financial settlement of a transaction - such as an energy flexibility service - takes many weeks to reach a final stage. This is because the system operator needs to verify that a service was actually provided. The close-to-real time publication on a ledger makes the tracking of the service tamper-proof and fast to identify. This allows a quicker financial settlement and the upscaling of demand side flexibility services (at industrial, commercial and residential level).

The JRC demo shows an energy flexibility transaction (i.e. a power injection or withdrawal) executed by an electric vehicle or a storage unit. After the transaction is triggered by a market/system operator, the event is stored on a ledger which can be seen (also on a large screen) by each of the permissioned nodes of the blockchain.

The demo is carried out with a Nissan electric vehicle (EV) with a 24 kWh battery connected to a type2 charger (<22 kW) and a storage system with 225 kW and 450 kWh capacity, connected to the same busbar, which will allow a bidirectional-flow of power from and towards the grid.

The Figure shows the set up of the experiment. It shows an interface of the platform to schedule and initiate the DR event. It shows the transfer of files within the lab computers and registry on the blockchain which is then presented on a screen for demonstration purposes.

The variables in stake are the very minimum for the sake of the experiment:

To be transmitted from the prosumer to the aggregator (minimum): Active power, Prosumer ID, Time stamp,

The aggregator will share some of the data with the system operator and what will be recorded on the blockchain are: Aggregated active power, Time stamp, Aggregator ID.


The Delta architecture provides a solution to facilitate many of the tasks being performed by the Aggregator as an actor. One of the tasks is to understand when (market, settlement period) and what (assets, power) to bid in order to maximise potential revenues.

The main objectives are:

  • Relieve Aggregators from resource-intensive tasks: DELTA Virtual Node
  • Establish an automated, efficient DR management structure: DELTA DR Management toolkit/ DELTA Fog-enabled Device
  • Simplify and fortify complex energy contractual agreements: DELTA Blockchain
  • Enrich Aggregator’s Portfolio by engaged Small/Medium prosumers: DELTA Collaboration Platform and Award enabled services

Today Demand Aggregators having DR contracts with large customers/businesses, Inconvenient, semi-automated explicit DR; Unreliable implicit DR. Single-point, Centralized Management of Assets. Fragmented standards/protocols for building monitoring & control systems.

Tomorrow

  • Exploit the untapped flexibility of small/medium prosumers, through a novel, secure DR Management Platform
  • Ease Aggregator’s computational effort through a distributed intelligence Architecture
  • Engage prosumers in both explicit and implicit DR through a social collaboration and incentivization platform and personalized interfaces
  • Achieve end-to-end interoperability through using/extending open source protocols (e.g. OpenADR)
  • Propose new business models and recommendations for policy makers to accelerate market adoption


3a4. Electric mobility

INTRODUCTION

Transport looks perfectly suited for blockchain implementations thanks to its decentralised nature: just think about the number of and the interactions among vehicles, drivers, charging stations and passengers.

Advantages of decentralisation include: elimination of a centrally managed EV charging infrastructure, fault tolerance, as well as elimination of price-setting and collusion behaviours between charging stations or transport providers. However, blockchains would have to overcome serious privacy and security concerns.

Blockchain coordinates the charging-station network autonomously, showing drivers where nearby stations are located and how they are being used. Smart contracts allow for automatic, secure, peer-to-peer energy payments. Drivers can pay securely and instantly using a blockchain wallet.

If blockchain microgrids have been set up in the area, power prices at each station can be established by grid and residential power suppliers.

Moreover, blockchains offer a unique verification and communication platform that would work in different locations, including cross-border travelling. For the network operators, blockchain systems offer a market-based solution that could be used for optimised management and coordination of EV charging.


Share & Charge is an independent foundation conducting projects with several companies in the EV and energy sector. Their aim is to build a blockchain-based platform overcoming the interoperability issue.

The Open Charging Network is an open and decentralized Ethereum network for the implementation of digital electric vehicle charging services.  It provides technical interoperability between Charge Point Operators (CPOs), eMobility Service Providers (eMSPs) and other industry players based on the OCPI protocol (Open Charge Point Interface), also known as EV roaming.

Projects include:

- a peer-to-peer blockchain payment system for public and private charging spots. The Share&Charge app connects electric cars with available residential and commercial charging stations and facilitates payments.

- a cross-European roaming network also based on blockchain (Oslo2Rome). 


Everty is an Australian startup company that has built a platform for EV charging that works for private, semi-public or public EV charging infrastructure.

Drivers can charge their EVs at home, commercial or public charging stations while having full control of owned stations and charges.

Everty allows to manage, monitor and monetise charging stations for home, commercial and public uses

The needs of a charging station project will differ depending on location and whether the station is public or private. For instance, the technological requirements of a station will vary between an on-street charging station and a highway service station.

Everty can help you select the most appropriate charging stations for your needs, which you can then link into a dedicated charging network. This in turn will help attract more EV drivers to these locations without the need for additional hardware or software implementation.

With the Everty Charging Network Platform, network operators can efficiently manage the assets in their network, provide payment applications via a driver app and view analytics in the Everty dashboard.

ALL REFERENCES FOR 3.BLOCKCHAIN USE CASES & APPLICATIONS - POWER SYSTEM