Japan: Kumamoto Electric pushes PV-powered cryptocurrency unit as potential curtailment solution

Tokyo-based OZ Mining will purchase electricity from its parent at rates as low as JPY 10 ($0.09)/kWh. Kumamoto Electric Power — which has also been referred to as “Kumamoto-Energy” in recent media reports — is part of TakeEnergy Corp., which provides solar EPC services and develops and maintains its own PV plants.

Cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin are “mined” in an incredibly energy-intensive process that verifies and shares transactions on the blockchain, which is the technology that underlies all such currencies. Recent research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) indicates that power demand from cryptocurrency operations throughout the world has jumped roughly three times over the past year, to roughly 37 GWh per day. 

Kumamoto Electric Power sees its plans as a potential solution to the curtailment of PV-generated electricity from the Japanese grid, according to an online statement. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is currently discussing new ways to address grid restrictions, as part of efforts to ensure greater transparency regarding the curtailment of solar and other renewables from regional grid networks.

Kumamoto Electric Power established OZ Mining in November. It aims to provide ideal conditions for cryptocurrency mining, partly by building containerized mining facilities that can be set up anywhere with nearby access to power sources. It will also offer cloud-based mining services.

Interest in using blockchain to fund renewable-energy projects has risen significantly over the past year. Last month, Estonian energy supplier WePower raised US$40 million in its initial coin offering (ICO).

The company aims to help solar and wind developers secure funding for projects by using cryptocurrencies to monetize anticipated power output. And a consortium of energy companies — including Shell, Statoil and BP — recently revealed plans to set up a blockchain-based digital platform for the energy sector. The venture aims to start running the new digital platform by the end of this year.