Interview by Anders Lorenzen
Over the last year, blockchain technology has moved from something merely associated with digital currencies, such as Bitcoin, towards something associated with a broader category of ‘disruptive’ technologies. As we wrote last year, blockchain could even have a huge role to play within the clean energy landscape.
Last year, the Australian company Power Ledger took the blockchain and cryptocurrency world by storm and positioned themselves as one of the brightest companies dealing with clean energy solutions in the blockchain space. I caught up with Dave Martin, their Managing Director (MD), to hear more about their plans. In the first half of the interview we focus on exploring who Power Ledger are, and in the latter half, we explore what their work will mean for renewables and clean tech.
If you need a reminder of what blockchain is, you can find out more here.
I started out by asking Martin a basic question, what is Power Ledger?
Dave Martin: Power Ledger is the distributed ledger for a distributed energy economy. We are a blockchain energy market provider putting our world-leading peer-to-peer energy trading platform, that allows households to trade excess solar power over the electricity network, to test across Australia, in New Zealand and now India.
Anders Lorenzen: What problem does the project set out to solve?
DM: Globally, and first in places like Europe, the US, and Australia, we are seeing an increasing trend towards the distribution of our energy system. Historically we were supplied by centralized, large power stations, a long way from where that energy was being consumed. Consumers just got what they were given. But with the rise of renewable energy resources, more and more consumers are taking control of their own energy requirements. Since the system was modeled for only central players to feed the energy supply, consumers producing energy don’t get fair value for their investment. The Power Ledger Platform allows consumers to receive the benefits of these investments, either by selling their excess energy through our Peer-to-Peer Trading Application or by contributing to our Asset Germination Events, whereby consumers buy, hold and trade fractional ownership of large renewable energy assets such as a battery or solar farm, using our platform.
AL: Why do we need it?
DM: As well as giving consumers a better deal on their investment and keeping value in the grid, Power Ledger has the potential to help with the vast amount of humanity who still don’t have any access to electricity or energy. The Power Ledger platform can provide a modern, low cost, low carbon alternative to the traditional energy supply model. Even better, because of the ability to fractionalise an asset, the platform can give communities and individuals a chance to own a share in their local power generating assets.
There will always be people who, through no fault of their own, can’t afford to participate in the distributed energy economy – renters, people suffering financial or social disadvantage – and they deserve the same access to low cost, low carbon energy as the rest of the population. The other issue to consider is the sustainability of putting PV and storage on every person’s roof to meet their peak demand rather than sharing capacity to meet the diversified peak demand across a large group of people. For example, if I just look after myself I need enough capacity to meet my peak demand. If I’m sharing energy with a group of people, we’re not likely to have a peak demand at the same time so the amount of generating capacity we need to install is reduced if we’re sharing it.
By utilising renewable energy assets, villages can generate all the energy required to cover their needs.
Our platform can also help alleviate the load on peak energy usage times. For example, village-to-village trading is another way that communities can break their reliance on single grids and start to trade energy in a peer-to-peer fashion. By utilising renewable energy assets, villages can generate all the energy required to cover their needs.
Also, any excess energy can be traded with other villages that require more, either because they can’t generate enough themselves or because they want to access an alternative supplier to the main grid. Power Ledger can be the platform that enables this trading to take place, recording ownership and transactions on the immutable blockchain.
AL: In what places is it ideal for usage?
DM: Areas with high PV penetration. Countries with a high smart meter penetration like Europe and hot spots in Asia and Australia are perfect for peer-to-peer renewable energy trading. There’s also a huge opportunity to enable developing nations’ energy access through microgrids as well as islands in need of energy system updates and resilience.
AL: What markets and countries are you looking at?
DM: We’re looking at multiple international jurisdictions through partnering arrangements and working to develop partnership agreements with property developers and property managers to give us reach into the energy consumer markets. We’ve already got deals with Tech Mahindra in India, Thai-government backed renewable energy provider BCPG in Thailand, as well as ongoing trials with Origin Energy in Australia, the White Gum Valley development in Perth and the Government-funded Smart Cities project in Fremantle.
AL: Why did you decide to launch Power Ledger as a cryptocurrency as well, as opposed to just a blockchain project?
DM: There were a number of reasons, the first of which is that we wanted a decentralised business model and we wanted to create a utility token that works throughout all applications and jurisdictions. Launching as a cryptocurrency also provides the license and bond backing for our Sparkz (tokenised electricity) tokens.
We landed on launching as a cryptocurrency to create a broader network, and we went into our Initial Coin Offering (ICO) thinking about how we could use the process to ensure people engaged with us, rather than just raising capital to fund the growth of our platform. We wanted (and have!) built a network of incentives.
We were offering a product, with multiple functionalities and uses within the Power Ledger Ecosystem. We weren’t about to offer a limited supply that persons or companies with deep pockets could snatch up in a matter of minutes.
We had a presale that lasted three days and a main sale that was four weeks long. We also had a $25K cap on presale and the main sale was deflationary by design, as the token price increased as more was contributed.
As a result, there was no incentive for investors to buy up all the tokens and resell them on exchanges at a higher price to actual users of the platform.
Instead, we had a sale where anyone who wanted POWR (Power Ledger’s token coin) could get it. This resulted in a ‘grassroots movement’ of small buyers who want to change their energy future and participate in our Ecosystem, rather than just large crypto-traders.
Stay tuned for part two where we will hear more about what Power ledger means for renewables.
Dave Martin was speaking to the Editor of A greener life, a greener world, Anders Lorenzen.