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The Energy Web Foundation (EWF) this week announced that it has launched the world’s first public, open-source, enterprise-grade blockchain tailored to the energy sector: the Energy Web Chain (EW Chain). As a refresher, blockchain allows for peer-to-peer energy market transactions.
More than 10 EWF Affiliates — including utilities, grid operators, and blockchain developers — are hosting validator nodes for the live network, according to the company.
These organizations, which include Mercados Electricos, FlexiDAO, Digital Virtues, Scytale Horizon, Wirepas, are the foundation of the Energy Web chain’s public Proof-of-Authority (PoA) network design: a publicly accessible, ethereum-based network with permissioned validators. The chain itself is public; any company, individual, or internet-connected device can transact across the network without permission.
At the same time, the chain’s validators are permissioned — they are known energy market participants identified and affiliated with EWF. This PoA-based design comes with three additional benefits for the energy sector: scalability, energy efficiency (which also equates to low transaction costs for energy market participants using the network), and increased regulatory compliance.
The EW Chain launch represents the latest major milestone in the Energy Web’s fast-growing ecosystem. EWF formed in early 2017 with support from co-founders Rocky Mountain Institute and Grid Singularity, as well as a cohort of ~12 initial Affiliates. By early 2018 EWF had surpassed 40 Affiliates and by early 2019 had crossed the 100-Affiliate threshold. Meanwhile, a growing list of respected utilities and grid operators have launched demonstrations, pilots, and even pre-commercial deployments on Energy Web test networks, including PJM-EIS, SP Group, Acciona, Iberdrola, Elia, and Stedin, among many others.
With the world’s largest energy blockchain ecosystem, the Energy Web has an unprecedented pathway to adoption and scale. In support, an expanding set of open-source software development toolkits (SDKs) help speed the time to commercial decentralized application (dApps), while the EW Link protocol allows everything from utility SCADA systems to smart meters to edge devices (e.g., inverters, EVs, thermostats) to connect to the EW Chain and transact via their digital identities.
EWF said in a press release that it is currently tracking 17 dApps running on Energy Web test networks that are expected to transition to the live network over the coming weeks. This first wave of dApps focuses on creating customer and business value by expanding markets for renewable energy trading, increasing the effectiveness and depth of demand response programs, and streamlining electric vehicle charging.
“We started Energy Web Foundation in 2017 with a promise: a production version of Energy Web Chain by Q2 2019. We are proud to announce that we kept our promise. Energy Web Chain is now running in production mode,” said Hervé Touati, co-founder and chief executive officer for EWF. “Our next target, to be reached latest by Q4 2019, is to fully decentralize the chain. At that point, it will no longer be ‘our’ chain; it will be the energy sector’s blockchain—the first public blockchain where blocks are validated by energy sector companies.”
“This is a watershed moment for accelerating a low-carbon, customer-centric electricity system,” added Jesse Morris, chief commercial officer of EWF. “I hope that we will look back on today’s EW Chain launch as another inflection point in electricity’s evolution, just as we now see wind and solar tumbling down the cost curve, the deployment of smart meters and other digital infrastructure, and the surge of electric vehicle investment and ownership.”
“Never before have we had a globally decentralized, open-source, public network supported by some of the world’s largest corporate entities, let alone in the energy sector,” explained EWF’s Morris. “Yet EWF Affiliates—including utilities, grid operators, and young companies experimenting with blockchain in energy—are standing up validator nodes on a decentralized public network to support a global technology. That’s incredible. These companies rarely collaborate or jointly innovate, and now they’re teaming up to support a brand new digital technology.”
“Most companies in the electricity sector know that value is shifting downstream. And most are focusing on building relationships with their customers. But most customers do not want to build relationships with their utilities,” explained EWF’s Touati. “What customers do is to invest in distribution edge devices—solar PV, batteries, charging stations, electric vehicles, smart controls— at such a pace that they may well outgrow utilities’ total investments within a decade. That offers a unique opportunity for utilities: develop relationships with their customers’ assets, rather than the customers themselves. For that, utilities need new kinds of software technology, like the Energy Web Chain—distributed, open source, run by the industry—allowing low-cost interoperability and trust between millions of devices and retailers or grid operators.”