Month: March 2018

Blockchain Technology In The Energy Market

Blockchain Technology In The Energy Market

Barely a day seems to pass by without a story about cryptocurrencies, bitcoin in particular, and how they could be the key to riches or the road to ruin. Regardless of the merits, or otherwise, of these digital currencies, what they have done is shine a light on the technology that underpins them: blockchain.

But what is blockchain? Well, according to the Wikipedia definition, it is

“an open, distributed ledger that can record transactions between two parties efficiently and in a verifiable and permanent way.

For use as a distributed ledger, a blockchain is typically managed by a peer-to-peer network collectively adhering to a protocol for validating new blocks. Once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks, which requires collusion of the network majority.”

The decentralised nature, fault tolerance and inherent security are what has made blockchain so popular in the world of finance and digital currencies, but these qualities can also be very useful in other sectors, such as the energy market.

As we continue to move away from a few large centralised power stations, to distributed generation across the network it’s not hard to see the potential for a whole new way of operating. Local communities could create ‘energy islands’ using renewables backed up by storage and trade it amongst themselves using blockchain technology, fundamentally changing the energy market and the role of grid operators.

Or blockchain can be used to manage bottlenecks and curtailment by creating virtual powerlines through integrated batteries, as is being trialled in Germany.

Companies may find a way to aggregate generation assets and combine this with blockchain and cryptocurrencies to rip through the energy market in similar fashion to digital revolutions in other sectors.

Regardless of how change arrives it is, judging by the number of articles appearing on this topic, on its way.

There is even now an event dedicated to furthering these and other ideas – Electrify Europe is the world’s first conference and exhibition dedicated to the convergence underway between the power generation, transmission & distribution sectors, driven by digitalisation, decarbonisation, decentralisation and electrification.

Given the current interest, it seems certain that blockchain will scale. When it does, this will be a very interesting space to watch indeed.

Local Authorities take initiative on charging points

Local Authorities take initiative on charging points

The uptake of electric and autonomous vehicles requires a ‘major industrial shift’ according to the chair of a new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).  With the governments focus being drawn towards Brexit, the UK is at risk of letting this industrial shift pass it by.

Dame Cheryl Gillan MP who is leading the group, aims to increase awareness amongst MPs of the benefits and opportunities of electric vehicles.  Dame Gillan said:

“It is imperative that parliamentarians are aware of the rapid pace of change in the electric and automated vehicle sectors and that post-Brexit the UK is well positioned to benefit from these new technologies.”

It is in this context of Brexit that the government is coming under pressure for a ‘coordinated charging strategy’ to increase the rate of uptake of electric cars.  The APPG will therefore also discuss the roll out of charging infrastructure.

Speaking at last week’s Energy Storage and Connected Systems, the Renewable Energy Association’s (REA) external affairs officer Daniel Brown said the APPG would seek to address the lack of a detailed strategy for rolling out charging infrastructure.

“The big piece that we see the APPG contributing is pressure for government to come up with some sort of coordinated charging strategy. We’ve challenged Treasury, Department for Transport, we’ve challenged various different quangos as you might call them and there’s no one co-ordinated body that’s thinking about this.

“There’s limited discussion across government of how we are going to operate if nobody’s thinking about what’s going to happen…There needs to be some sort of body that is thinking through things more clearly. So the APPG is going to be pushing for some sort of EV charging strategy.”

But there are already moves from Local Authorities throughout the UK to promote their own charging strategies.

Kensington and Chelsea council for example already have central London’s largest lamp post electric vehicle charging network.  They have said that lamp post chargers offer a more cost-effective and ‘much less obtrusive’ option for charging by removing the need for additional street infrastructure.

The London borough of Wandsworth have also recently agreed a project for over 700 lamp post charging points throughout the borough with the aim of making electric vehicle ‘the norm, not the exception’.

Members of their community services scrutiny committee voted unanimously for the plans.  An eco-friendly car owners club is to be set up offering charging points on request to residents who have already bought or are about to purchase a new electric car.

The number of electric vehicles registered in Wandsworth has grown from 127 at the end of 2015 to well over 400, a figure which has been rising by as much as 10% every three months.

The council’s transport and environment spokesman Cllr Jonathan Cook said:

“We know that we need to play our part by removing barriers to choosing cleaner travel. That’s why we want people buying an electric vehicle to be able to charge it, and those wanting to hire a car to be able to choose electric.”

Lamp post charging is fast becoming the go-to model for local authorities to provide electric car charging without the need for off-street charging points.

Meanwhile in Scotland this model is being taken to the ‘next level’ by integrating generation, storage and charging all at one location.  A new electric vehicle charging hub in Dundee will combine rapid chargers, solar canopies and onsite energy storage all on one locations as part of the cities Go Ultra Low programme.

The initiative’s flagship project on Princes Street will incorporate six rapid chargers and solar canopies alongside a 60kW/90kWh E-STOR system from Connected Energy.

The energy storage system will be used to improve the business case and manage the peak load while taking advantage of the solar energy generated on site to charge electric vehicles – even in this northerly city not known for its sunshine.

Matthew Lumsden, chief executive of Connected Energy said:

“This is a landmark project in terms of the development of EV charging hubs in the UK so we are very pleased to be contributing to the development of the system and the supporting operational and business case.”

Lynne Short, convener of Dundee City Council’s city development committee, added:

“This is an important project for the city and it will take us to the next level when it comes to our charging infrastructure.

“Within the 26 square miles of perfection that is Dundee we will have a charging network second to none and working with skilled and efficient suppliers is a key part of that.”


Cities moving towards 100% renewables

Cities moving towards 100% renewables

A new report from environmental impact research group CDP has claimed that in 2017 101 of the 500+ cities for whom it compiles records now source at least 70% of its electricity from renewable sources. This is an increase of over 100% from the 42 cities in 2015.

Speaking to the Guardian Nicolette Bartlett, director of climate change at CDP stated the increase was due to a deliberate shift by many towards renewable energy usage plus more cities reporting to CDP that meant the data was a “comprehensive picture of what cities are doing with regards to renewable energy.”

Kyra Appleby CDP’s director of cities said “Reassuringly, our data shows much commitment and ambition. Cities not only want to shift to renewable energy, but, most importantly – they can.”

Climate action at city level increased dramatically in 2017 on the back of Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord which in turn led to a global agreement of 7,500 city mayors to tackle climate change head on.

These include Burlington, Vermont which reported to CDP that all its power was sourced from renewable sources in 2017 having fully transitioned two years previously and now investigating moving to zero-carbon.

Mayor Miro Weinberger said to CDP that its shift to a diverse mix of biomass, hydro, wind and solar power had boosted the local economy, and encouraged other cities to follow suit. Across the US 58 towns and cities, including Atlanta and San Diego, have set a target of 100% renewable energy. Research from the Sierra Club states there are five such cities in the US including Burlington.

In the UK 84 cities have signed up the UK100 local government network’s target of 100% of energy from renewable sources by 2050 fourteen of which were 2017 additions including Liverpool, Barking and Dagenham, Bristol, Bury, Peterborough, Redcar and Cleveland.

Around the world 43 cities are now powered entirely by renewable energy with the majority being in South and Central America where hydropower is common. In the six months to July, Latin American cities reported having instigated $183m of renewable energy projects, significantly less when compared to Europe ($1.7bn worth of projects) or Africa ($236m).

Europe however still lags behind with only 20 cities sourcing more than 70% of its electricity from renewable sources with the best being Icelandic capital Reykjavik, which sources all its electricity from hydropower and geothermal and is now working to make all cars and public transit fossil-free by 2040.

With cities using vast amounts of electricity the switch many are making to 100% renewable energy is a massive step towards blanket 100% renewable energy. In addition many large scale industrial plants are signing up to renewable energy power purchase agreements which is another huge step.

There are still other hurdles to overcome but as the infrastructure continues to expand the ultimate goal of 100% renewable energy across the globe is no longer a pipe dream. It makes both economical sense and will create a safer and cleaner environment we all can enjoy.

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