Bitcoin technology is starting to seep into the electricity business, shaking up the way payments are managed every time a light switch is flipped.
From New York to Vienna, researchers and utilities are adapting the cloud-based ledger system used to track bitcoins as a replacement for slower administrative systems that require constant human input and multiple spreadsheets. Once set up, the database, called blockchain, automatically records individual actions within a system, formats them, and stores the results in a secure online listing available to anyone anywhere with access.
The need for such speed? Utilities are shifting away from a century-old arrangement where they monopolized both supply and distribution. Now, independent wind- and solar-farms are feeding into power grids in short, sometimes unpredictable intervals that require transaction systems to be more nimble and decentralized. Utilities including RWE AG in Germany and Fortum OYJ in Finland are looking to blockchain technologies to do just that.
“There’s a change in the business model on the way, and they’re trying to figure out how to participate in this new world of distributed energy,” said Lawrence Orsini, the founder of New York-based blockchain developer LO3 Energy.