A potentially revolutionary system is being implemented in California’s Silicon Valley by Australian energy trading company, Power Ledger, that will use blockchain technology to manage credits generated by the use of renewable energy in electric vehicle charging.
Implemented by Power Ledger’s partner in the US, Clean Energy Blockchain Network (CEBN), the platform will create a digital ledger for to track and manage the production and use of renewable energy created by Santa Clara City solar and battery storage installations, as well as fuel provided to the publicy.
The blockchain platform has been implemented in a multistory EV charging facility in the city of Santa Clara. It’s the first time such a system will become an integral part of an EV station.
Zero- or low-emission fuels used in transport vehicles and homes are currently subject to criteria set by a low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) mandate, the first of which was implemented by the state of California in 2007.
This allows fuels to be rated according to their ‘carbon intensity’, and LCFS credits (better known as carbon offsets in Australia) can be generated by the use of lower emission fuels, allowing fuel providers to meet compliance through the banking and trading of credits generated.
However the current system by which LCFS credits are processed can be lengthy and costly, as renewable energy is pushed onto a centralised grid along with energy created from fossil fuels and requires independent verification to ensure transparent tracking of renewable energy and its associated benefits.
The new system, created by Perth-based Power Ledger, completely wipes clean the need for expensive auditing processes.
Using blockchain technology and the company’s own POWR cryptocurrency, certificates are generated and stored every time renewable energy is produced or traded on a decentralised system.
The company has already trialed its system in Melbourne on a select group of units and strata apartments, allowing residents to maximise the return on their solar systems.
“Coupling on-site renewable energy generation with peer-to-peer trading will allow residents to maximise the value of their … investments, while sharing the low-carbon benefits with their neighbours,” said Power Ledger’s managing director, David Martin.
More recently, the first commercial deployment of the blockchain energy trading platform was launched in Chicago, at the Northwestern University campus in Evanston.
Now, Martin and his team have taken the system to where the LCFS all began, in partnership with Silicon Valley Power who recently received almost $US200,000 to build on the San Francisco Bay area’s well-established EV charging network.
Putting the system in place hasn’t cost a lot either, as API data from pre-existing meters are being used, meaning no additional hardware, software or engineering fees will be required.
It will greatly improve the current time-consuming process, says Mike Ashley, co-founder of Clean Energy Blockchain Network.
“It can take months to audit,” he says. “It is the most direct and serious pain point in the short term. Blockchain is a way around. Transactions can happen quickly and with very little overhead.”
By instantly verifying clean energy source data through the certification process without manual data transference, both time and costs are cut with trusted, verifiable and accountable tracking.
In the short term, benefits of such a platform will make investment in renewable energies more affordable, says computer science professor Srinivasan Keshav from the University of Waterloo.
The long-term benefit for the customers however is much wider, as the real-time data collected by the blockchain platform enables a much deeper understanding of the impact on the electrical grid – and how to reduce it.
Speaking with RenewEconomy, Martin said “if we can encourage people to charge in the middle of the day, when there is a surplus of solar energy, we escape exacerbating the problem of peak afternoon energy production by fossil fuels.”
In Australia, where the complexities of the latest National Energy Guarantee have some concerned that customers ultimately will bear unnecessary costs, it would be a step forward to see a wide adoption of streamlined and much simpler peer-to-peer energy tracking.
“If there were incentives in Australia, the data would help identify the tackling of problems,” Martin continued. “Now with this technology we can identify when and where the bottlenecks are, and create novel arrangements such as the incentives we see overseas.”
How the partnership with Silicon Valley Power plays out may have to be seen first, and Martin says the utility company’s leading position on innovative programs will give it its best shot.
“We’re excited to demonstrate how the platform can assist with cutting both costs and carbon in a simple manner with a secure and clean energy source,” he says.
The next step after the Santa Clara implementation over this summer and autumn, Martin says, will be to invite the local regulator to validate the certificates generated and stored by Power Ledger’s platform, with the ultimate goal of making such technology part of the broader regulatory network.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.