You’ve heard of selling your excess solar power back to the grid, but what about cutting out the middle man and directly on-selling to your neighbour instead?
It’s called peer-to-peer trading and it’s fast becoming a reality in Australia, with start-ups across the country trialling ways to counter power bill hikes by putting the power of energy generation into the hands of consumers.
Who can take part?
Buyers, sellers and investors.
Solar panel owners get a small return for feeding excess power from their roof back into the grid, which power companies then on-sell at a much higher price.
Peer-to-peer trading overhauls the system by opening up the market to allow households to buy and sell solar energy without a power company, trading their energy for more than the feed-in tariff while still undercutting power providers for buyers.
It’s a concept environment scientist Paul Donovan believes is the future.
“This is in response to a decentralisation of energy trading — it’s becoming increasingly untenable to have a centralised system which is incredibly expensive because of infrastructure,” Mr Donovan said.
“Just look at the reduction in users, people who are going off-grid or demanding less electricity because of their renewable energy solutions, because of solar and batteries.”
Power Ledger’s software allows householders to sell excess solar energy to each other. (Supplied: Shutterstock)
He doesn’t own solar panels, nor is he buying solar energy for his own consumption, but he’s invested in Perth start-up, Power Ledger, which has created software to allow consumers in groups of apartments or commercial properties to sell excess energy from their solar systems to their neighbours.
There are plans to roll it out across the network.
Mr Donovan can take part in the market because the company has launched a unique business model which uses Blockchain technology to undertake energy transactions.
Hang on, what’s Blockchain?
Blockchain turns both currencies and commodities into a digital form, which allows one person to trade with another without relying on a middle man like a bank or power company to process the transaction for you.
To take part in the Blockchain, you must own digital currency which is commonly known as cryptocurrency and can be bought using ordinary money, like Australian dollars.
Bitcoin became the first cryptocurrency in 2009 and was followed by others such as Ethereum and Ripple, which now collectively share more than 80 per cent of the market.
“Blockchain and cryptocurrency really makes the concept of peer-to-peer trading and the ability to support distributed renewables a global possibility,” Power Ledger co-founder David Martin said.
“By opening it up to a cryptocurrency, it allows us to make the applications interoperable – so a peer to peer trading application in Australia may over time be interoperable with an EV charging application in America or an asset germination event in India,” he said.
How does energy get onto the Blockchain?
Power Ledger has developed software which reads the outputs of electricity meters and can therefore measure the amount of energy that is consumed or generated.
Those two pieces of information are then recorded on the Blockchain and used to move energy from one person to another via a unit called ‘Sparkz’, which is a digital representation of energy.
Power Ledger’s David Martin (l) and Jemma Green (r) have teamed with DigitalX CEO Leigh Travers to raise $34 million. (ABC News: Supplied)
“It’s a representation of the value of energy pegged at one cent,” David Martin said.
“For the kilowatt hour coming from your roof into my meter, we agree I’m going to pay you 15 cents for it, and as your kilowatt hour comes from your roof to my meter, 15 of my sparks go from my wallet to your wallet,” he said.
The buyer receives the energy and the seller banks payment for the electricity almost simultaneously – which means once the ‘Sparkz’ land in the seller’s digital wallet, they can then convert them to Australian dollars.
Do people care about breaking down traditional power networks?
In just three days, Power Ledger raised $34.15 million in Australia’s first ever ICO (Initial Coin Offering), which involves a blockchain company selling part of its ledger to investors which gives them access to the function of the blockchain.
The raising follows a pre-sale haul of $17 million.
DigitalX chief executive officer Leigh Travers managed the sale and said there was strong investor support for the business model.
“It really is a project that utilises blockchain technology to disrupt an industry and enable the peer-to-peer economy to flourish,” Mr Travers said.
“For example, if you’d invested $2,000 in Ethereum when it did their ICO, it would be worth over a million dollars now, so there has been a lot of success from early stage investors.”
The system is operating projects in Australia and New Zealand following the completion of successful trials, with new testing set to start with electricity giant Origin Energy and Tech Mahindra in India.