Power Ledger enables consumer participation in energy markets

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Two worlds collided in a frisson of excitement at the Perth offices of Power Ledger earlier this month. Its large-scale peer-to-peer energy-trading trial in India was set to expand, while the Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) had just released a paper on how digitalization is changing the National Electricity Market (NEM).

“[The AEMC paper is] a very exciting announcement,” said Dr. Jemma Green, co-founder and executive chair of Power Ledger. “There’s not a lot of competition in the peaking energy market – it’s really only for three or four players, and because there’s not a lot of supply, the prices are very high.”

However, the AEMC paper opens the door to a future in which Australian consumers will add supply to the NEM from their home solar and/or battery systems, controlling their devices to use electricity at times of low prices, while selling energy into the market at times of favourable pricing.

“It’s heralding a new era of energy in Australia,” said Green.

Energy trading

India is also on the cusp of enabling energy trading between interconnected residents and distributed generators, using digital technologies such as Power Ledger’s blockchain-enabled energy trading and investment platforms.

“There’s a large-scale smart-meter rollout going on in India, which means you can create a very agile and dynamic trading environment with the feeds from those smart meters,” says Green.

For the past three months, a group of gated communities in Dwarka, in the Indian state of Gujarat – served by electricity distributor BSES Rajdhani Power Limited (BRPL) – have been trading energy peer to peer on the Power Ledger platform. That is, residents with rooftop solar – totalling 5-6 MW of collective capacity – have been selling excess energy to their neighbors, who may or may not have solar on their rooftops, rather than letting it spill into the grid.

In a country where it’s not yet possible for consumers to purchase renewable energy through the retail system, and the market mechanisms don’t yet exist to support the installation of solar by property owners and commercial entities, the Power Ledger trial was demonstrating the benefits of renewable energy to participants.

“With the exponential growth in our economy and production, the ability to generate clean energy and utilize it across India without the need for a fully centralized grid is critical,” said BRPL CEO Amal Sinha. “Realizing the importance of distributed generation, we have already built an extensive renewables infrastructure, and this trial with Power Ledger will help us fully utilize that energy.”

The ongoing trial will include solutions for group net metering, virtual net metering, EV charging and the exploration of virtual power plant applications among BRPL’s 2.5 million customers in the National Capital Territory of New Delhi.

“Since our inception, the aim for our P2P platform has been to support energy retailers in better managing their demand and supply, and encourage renewable energy adoption,” said Power Ledger’s Head of Business Development and sales, Vinod Tiwari. “This project will be a working example of these concepts in action.”

Software as a service

Green describes peer-to-peer energy trading as Power Ledger’s signature product. Already a recognized Australian digital export, it has been used in projects as varied as a residential trading scheme between 10 households in the Austrian city of Graz, to a 1 MW commercial project spanning six commercial buildings in Bangkok.

“We see quite a strong growth trajectory for the Thai market,” Green told pv magazine. “Because the government there has also signalled its intention to digitalize the energy market.”

Power Ledger also recently signed with an energy retailer in France whose customers want to be able to track the provenance of their energy – to specify which solar or wind farm their electricity is sourced from.

In the future, such a project might progress towards another Power Ledger enabler – the proposed renewable-asset ownership product, which will help people who can’t afford to install solar on their own rooftop to own a fraction of a renewable energy asset.

Power Ledger “fractionalizes the asset on the blockchain so that the blockchain is the asset register. That asset then generates electricity, and that electricity is eligible for credit,” says Green.

Environmental commodities

Green sees great potential in the trading of environmental commodities on the C6 platform, Power Ledger’s second most advanced product, which is gaining traction in Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) trading in the United States. Power Ledger will also soon announce a REC trading project in Japan.

“REC trading in the US is a very large market, with about $3 billion issued each year,” says Green. “We have a partnership with Clearway Energy, which is NASDAQ listed and has 6 GW of renewables in its portfolio, to roll out blockchain-powered certificate trading.”

The evolving market for trading digital energy commodities is “often criticized for being opaque, but blockchain technology will make it more efficient, secure, and provide greater transparency,” Green said. “We will be able to track RECs on a blockchain ledger system from the point of creation, sale and transfer to the buyer, through to the point of retirement of the certificate and the annual sustainability audit.”

Two-way street

Green, who co-founded Power Ledger “by accident,” in response to a series of life events and fortuitous meetings, is looking forward to expanding the company’s Australian base, which currently includes a 40-customer peer-to-peer trial in Fremantle, Western Australia, and a large-scale virtual power plant in partnership with electricity wholesaler Powerclub, in South Australia, announced on Nov. 7.

She says the AEMC’s move to facilitate a truly two-sided national energy market, in which consumers are rewarded for buying and selling their energy, “is pretty exciting.”

AEMC Chairman John Pierce agrees. “We are starting a new conversation to capture and extend the benefits of digitization for all energy consumers into the future,” Pierce said.