Thoughts from our Green Energy Nights Meetup in Berlin: Blockchain as an Enabler in the Energy Transition
What does innovation look like in the energy system? What role should blockchain play?
Presented by Tempus Data Scientist Rachel Berryman working in our Berlin office.
Fixing our broken energy system is an enormous undertaking, far too big for any one company to accomplish alone. It is our duty to foster and grow the community of like-minded energy system innovators. We have a much better chance at ending the reign of fossil fuel when we work together, sharing ideas and best practices.
In this spirit of collaboration, we hosted a meetup of the ongoing Green Energy Nights series in Berlin, who focus on methods for enabling the transition to a renewables-based energy system. We spoke alongside blockchain actor Energy Web Foundation and presented our approach to blockchain technology.
It is vitally important to us to keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in this community, shaping the discourse around the role that new technologies like blockchain can play in transforming the energy system. This tool is extremely powerful. We must all resist the urge to implement it without regards to its implications. Companies focused on customers, society, and the environment like Tempus need to be at the forefront of this debate.
Our approach is different than the traditional blockchain story. The typical trajectory that has emerged is for people to learn about blockchain’s promise and excitedly ask themselves, “What can I put on the chain?”
We wanted to ask our audience to be critical: is blockchain alone innovative? What needs to happen for it to be innovative or disruptive?
Our 9 years of experience gives us a completely different vantage point when thinking about blockchain technologies. We have seen first-hand how hard it is to take power away from centralised generators and those who make money from them, and how unwilling they are to give up their power.
A global community of distributed flexible energy users needs to be in place before it goes on chain. Otherwise, the fundamental power structure will not change and the incredible innovation possible with blockchain technologies will be stymied. Or worse, monopolised by corporations.
Our strategy is to focus on expanding flexibility. Every stakeholder in the energy system needs to see flexibility and demand-side balancing as the first step toward balancing the grid, not as an ancillary measure that takes a back seat to firing up fossil fuel generation.
We discussed how this can be supported - consumers must be settled on their true consumption and settled frequently, they need to have transparent, constant access to information about how their appliances and assets are using energy, and about how dirty that energy is at every moment. They need to see the impact of flexibility on their carbon footprint and save money from their actions.
When this happens, the transition to a blockchain solution will arise naturally, driven by a need to transparently record and reward these impacts.
Until this happens, blockchain technologies alone are unlikely to achieve our vital mission of fixing the energy system. This is especially true when we look at the present state of blockchain technology and its reliance on proof of work-based protocols.
We struck a chord with many industry practitioners at the meetup who are with us in the struggle to transform our energy system. These colleagues and fellow innovators are excited about blockchain’s potential but know to be wary of any method that bills itself as a quick fix or panacea. Like us, they know the hard work of bringing regulators, business leaders and technologists together around a mission of real change will still need to be done.
We shared with our audience a different viewpoint on blockchain technologies from a systems innovator, deep in the struggle to upend the system. We will continue to facilitate critical dialogues like this one and push our colleagues and fellow innovators to keep the mission in mind when evaluating new tools and technologies.
Rachel Berryman, Data Scientist