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Blockchain: opportunities and challenges

Image via Flickr:thelastminute
Image via Flickr:thelastminute

Blockchain, a technology increasingly gaining attention, looks to hold much promise for climate-focused innovation.

As a public ledger-based technology, Blockchain has the potential to dramatically transform energy and supply chains through smart contracts, de-centralised infrastructure, and facilitating traceability and transparency. However, debate has been raised about some of the major challenges for Blockchain, including the large amount of energy needed for data processing, and the handling of privacy-sensitive data such as consumption, locations or financial transactions. We asked:

What opportunities and challenges do you see for Blockchain in your particular sector?

“De-centralised energy means that we’re all engaged in one of the fundamental issues of our age: how to eliminate greenhouse gases. By actively engaging in the way we generate and consume energy, we can collectively pass on a better world to our children and grandchildren.

Upside-Energy-Graham-Oakes-CLEAN-10-copy-copyBlockchain does pull us towards a peer-to-peer energy system. It allows us to buy and sell our own energy, working with our neighbours and community to create a cleaner, more socially equitable energy system. But it’s not the only way.

With blockchain, we rely on technology providers just as much as when we use a central database.  The governance is different, but dependency remains.  I don’t think we’ve yet really fully understood how that governance will work. Until then, I’m watching blockchain but not committing wholeheartedly to it.”

Graham Oakes, Founder and Chief Scientist, UpSide Energy

 

“Wherever there are long supply chains or multiple companies involved in verifying and executing transactions, the promise of blockchain ledgers is to eliminate inefficiencies and middlemen to create cheaper, better services for customers.

We are already seeing off-grid communities producing resilient, cost-effective solar energy and generating SolarCoins as added income. Communities in Australia and Brooklyn can transact solar electricity between prosumers, reducing grid congestion and achieving low carbon targets at the same time.

These are just two of the ways that companies are currently using blockchain to transform the customer experience around energy, and we are just at the beginning of what is possible.”

Molly Webb, Founder and CEO, Energy Unlocked 

 

“One of the key assumptions is that Blockchain will make all elements of the current carbon market obsolete, but the first step is connecting the various systems, nodes and projects and ensuring we have key transaction data on a blockchain.

cXvkRoGd_400x400With time, cumbersome elements could be streamlined or replaced but we’ll need localised databases and verification. It will be about automation, not reduction in governance. There is no one blockchain or definitive system that has been built. It’s a set of technological tools we must put together for each case to address the problems of the users, and then build on these.

Incorporating jurisdiction/timestamp is five to six years away as it needs to be built from the bottom up, incorporating and bridging the sub, national and regional levels in order to build one big blockchain.”

Katherine Foster, Co-Founder and Director for International Collaboration, Institute for Distributed Technology

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