Jemma Green is the co-founder of Power Ledger- an Australian energy trading platform. Green’s reflections on how summer power issues in Australia can be handled much more efficiently are quite stirring. And it is quite a fresh approach in which Jemma addresses whether we need to combine the electricity and blockchain technology.
Scratching the topic from the surface, brought us face to face with the regular pattern of power issues that all of us are familiar with but don’t have much control over. Often during summer power troubling times we get texts saying that due to high demand on the power grid, you are requested to lessen your usage of the electricity on that day or for a set of days.
As a result, we start to cut down on using all the electrical devices and narrow down the usage to the basic demands. All of a sudden priority takes over our regular pattern of using the electricity. We scale down the usage based on the advice given to us by the power shop. We even go to the extent of postponing the use of devices such as a dishwasher or the washing machines to a point where the power shop has allowed us to follow our daily routine. Some tweaks here and there are also adopted. For instance- microwaving gets substituted with the traditional gas cooking or barbecues, to balance out the power shortage challenge.
These bouts of power shortage crises do get tackled with such measures, but they involve a lot of manual effort. On the one hand, where our lives are critically tied to fixed schedules and a set pattern, such bouts pose a real challenge to carve out extra time and physical effort. How far can we stretch this manual effort and timing our electrical devices around the power shortage supply in our fast-paced lives?
In the times when ‘Internet of things’ is taking over, this manual way of solving such issues and that too with on a regular basis is quite an effort that can’t be met every time. How fantastic would it be if the electrical devices could work out the optimum time to switch on and switch themselves off, on their own as per the least expensive point of time as per power supply! How convenient would it be if the price signals could directly go to the electrical devices through the internet with the full details of the amount of energy consumed per hour when is the right time to use the power and so on!
The support of the internet of things will not only save us time but will save us so much of effort too. It can replace out toil around the power and sustainability challenges. It would save us the effort to go through the time slot options where it is cheapest to use the power. Won’t it be super preferable if our electrical devices were too programmed to do such operations?
An analogy for the intelligent use of the Internet of things-
Internet of things holds a lot of potentials which is not fully used. If we look at the airline system in the olden times of the eighties, they were quite an expensive affair. Only a select few, who could afford to fly, used to use them. The big carriers used to charge hefty amounts.
The game got flipped on its head with the introduction of agile and flexible pricing. It brought down the prices so low that flying from one city to another is way cheaper than driving all the way to that destination. Moreover, flexible pricing has opened the gates for everyone to use flying experience and has made it more accessible. Both the consumers as well as the airlines are making a lot of business.
Now it is a common scene to find people quoting their budget and then choosing the flights options available to them, instead of asking for the airline’s prices first. Also, the flexible pricing has allowed the airlines to adjust both the business class traveler as well as the tight budget traveler even at the last minute.
Imagine this analogy to parallel electricity usage. The user could choose the amount of electricity and convenient rates. The user could choose the rates based on how much in advance they have booked the electricity slot. Won’t it be liberating?
Also running with the airlines analogy, like in flexible airline pricing system, you are allowed to select further details such as travelling with hand luggage only, or you wish to carry extra bags, last minute bookings, last minute cancellations, priority boarding, special meal preferences, window seats, leg room, and so on; what if power supply could offer you such freedom of choice? What if you could design your power plans based on the number of people in your family, or extra supply based on any last minute changes such as big family gathering, or last-minute cancellation of plans such as you going out for a holiday and so on!
What if you could create your power usage portfolio, base on how many battery operated devices are in use, timing when a device can switch itself on once another device has stopped using power?
The eye-watering electrical prices-
It’s no news that electrical prices rip out a big chunk of money from our pockets and budgets every month. The lack of flexibility in the price signals bears a tough issue for the Australian power usage system. It can get soften up only with introducing a more agile pricing system. That will give power in the hands of the consumer. It will allow the users and their devices to become the traders of the electricity and will give birth to the ‘genuine retail price’ instead of measuring everything with the wholesale pricing system.
Further, if the consumer could get greater control on when to buy the electricity and when to even sell it off, it will bring in a better sense of responsibility around using power judiciously. The money saved through such transactions may further allow the users to invest in the battery-operated devices to further the process of saving power. With such a system less and fewer power spikes will be seen, the power prices can be tamed, and moreover, the power ecosystem will be under so much control.
All this can be achieved with a flexible pricing system. And exactly here comes the dynamic possibility of incorporating the blockchain system to the power supply system.
Wholesale price and agile power pricing-
Wholesale power prices can be brought down by the agile power pricing system. Here is how it can be done. Imagine a power spike day such as 23rd Jan. With such hot temperature, there will be a natural tendency of people to use their air conditioners all day long. Imagine a city following this trend. This would naturally increase power rates. Now if a medium sized business wants to buy electricity on this particular day, it will cost the company a great deal to follow up routine work.
Now imagine another scenario. Imagine a smart family who has invested in solar panels and over time has saved electricity little by little. Now when this family faces a day like 23rd Jan, they are in a greater position to use their saved up electricity. The family can up the smart investment by selling a part of their saved up electricity or the entire saved up electricity to the needful, and can gain profits along with recovering the costs of the buying the solar panels in the first place. This will let the family to enjoy literally free electricity on the otherwise super expensive day, as well as to recover the investment costs of the solar panel.
Now scale up the number of such families who are using smart options such as using solar panels. How incredibly strong system can we build up! Not only the power spike will get tamed, even on the expensive electricity days, but people can also become self-sufficient with money getting saved in their pockets side by side.
The self-reliant system will help people break the dependency on the power shops and so people can get free from sudden surprises such as of 23rd Jan.
Incorporating blockchain and power pricing system-
Blockchain technology has started to touch so many aspects of our lives such as- from changing the traditional financial infrastructure to the way we think about investing our funds, from education systems to transparent business structure, from a centralized, regulated system to the free yet powerful decentralized systems, etc. The much talked about blockchain and energy concepts can be seen as a distraction too. The point is that we should sieve the concept from the extra perks. For instance, you can buy grocery from a regular shop as well as from a supermarket. What sets them apart is the greater variety one gets in the supermarket, the greater efficiency due to the presence of the moving belt while shopping, the barcode usage while calculating the rates, the digital payment concepts, and so on. But fundamentally both serve the same purpose. It does not mean that we are dismissing the power of the supermarket over the regular shop.
In a similar way, there is a basic difference between the features that facilitate a system and the basic premise of the system. The blockchain and crypto connection can be understood in a similar light. The ease of transactions, the scope of transactions, the efficiency of transactions, the speed of transactions, the transparency, the security and so much more gets enhanced with the usage of blockchain technology. If power pricing system is to be combined with the blockchain technology, one can expect much more control in the consumer’s hands, and a better regulation overall. It will surely enhance the power system. If the decentralized aspect of blockchain technology can be incorporated, maybe a global structure can be built around the system.
Much safer, precise, and transparent transactions can be expected with this incorporation. But with all these perks, the difference between the features that facilitates a system and the basic premise of the system stays intact.