Auto-consumption is a major trend in power industry nowadays, as more consumers (prosumers) want to take control of their energy generation and consumption patterns. Many, worldwide, have stepped into investing individually in their own sets of renewable generation resources.
As most renewable energy resources are intermittent, a lack or excess of generation may occur anytime. In such cases, prosumers need to inject or absorb power externally to compensate their power needs.
The current options to deal with these fluctuations come at a cost for the prosumers.
When they have got an excess of power, they need to sell it back to the grid at a low feed-in price, and end up buying it back from the grid later when needed, at a higher rate.
An alternative is to invest in storage capabilities to arbitrate better when to sell or buy power from the grid; however this may be a costly solution.
Finally, they may delegate the arbitrage to a third party, a middle-man called the aggregator who may better arbitrate their energy usage, taking of course his share of the savings enabled by this arbitration!
This challenge is about exploring the option of direct peer-to-peer energy trading, enabling prosumers to sell their excess of energy to their neighborhood with no indermediary.
Compared with the current solutions, this technology would enable to set advantageous exchange rates. It would benefit the consumers who invested in their own renewable energy resources (such as roof-top solar). And the energy buyers in the vicinity have access to clean energy generated by their neighbors, at effectively a cheaper rate than from the grid.
One requisite for the success of such an approach is to guarantee the safety of transactions despite the absence of centralization. Also important is the possibility to maintain a reliable and transparent transaction history.
Blockchain is an obvious candidate technology to achieve this.
One idea of a solution is therefore a blockchain marketplace, accessible by the users via a web interface, where they could configure how much, to whom, from whom they sell/buy power and at which rate. These parameters would be recorded in a distributed blockchain network and treated as smart agreements between the community peers.
The blockchain marketplace could be verified by any user, ensuring the distribution of trust among the community. It would process the power generation excess into renewable energy units that other community members may purchase, and then utilize. Mini-controllers and meters would be embedded on consumers side in order to track the exchanges and allow the blockchain marketplace to register the transactions or interactions transparently into a chain of history that could not be altered.
Looking ahead at possible experimentations before regulation enables real-life deployment, this challenge aims at building a technical pilot that would demonstrate scale potential, security and transparency.
Depending on the needs and relevance of the candidate projects, the challenge partners team with GE Grid Solutions could approach one of their clients owning local, consumer-level historical and forecasting data on which the pilot could be tested to simulate real energy patterns:
Energy injection and consumption forecasts for each community user: forecasts of the next 1 hr to 24 hrs ahead
Prosumer parameters: for each point of the grid, what portion to sell/buy, to/from whom, at which rate.
In the scenario where the pilot leads to a commercial offering by GE to its clients, the preferred approach is a licensing agreement, whereby the team offers GE an x% rebate on the software. Intellectual Property can be retained by the team authoring it.