When Bitcoin first announced its arrival nine years ago, we thought we were getting a cool, online digital currency. What we actually got was the first glimpse at a technology which would come to revolutionize the post-millennium world.
As groundbreaking as the concept of digital cash has been, and there are many positive use cases, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that the true star of the show in years to come will be the foundational technology which underpins digital currency – the blockchain.
Already blockchain technology has been put to use in a myriad of ways that would very probably surprise its original creator, the enigmatic Satoshi Nakamoto.
From betting networks to employment hubs; from recycling platforms to arenas for artificial intelligence testing; from MMORPG’s to business tracking… the blockchain is starting to find its way into just about every facet of modern life.
Now, new blockchain-based startups are turning their disruptive eyes towards an industry that regularly records daily profit margins in the billions – the energy market.
Fixing Crypto’s Carbon Footprint
One of the downsides of running and mining a blockchain is the energy resources it consumes. This can be felt on an individual level, as you struggle to keep up with the monthly bills incurred by your mining rig; but it can also be seen on a global scale, as miners relocate to developing countries to take advantage of low energy prices.
One energy company is looking to address this problem by using blockchain technology to oversee their green energy recycling business, while tokenizing units of energy to cut down on the wastage that occurs as the
4New already have two environmentally-friendly waste recycling plants up and running, with a third planned for next year. Their KWATT token is tied to the value of each kilowatt of electricity their plants produce.
The idea here is that the consumer can buy specific and accurate amounts of clean energy without going through the inefficient existing energy routes, which have been shown to be wasteful, and are still largely based on fossil-fuel sources.
4New Token Sale Website
4New focus specifically on targeting the mining process, and plan to either sell electricity to the grid, to be picked up by miners, or to funnel it to their onsite mining farm where staked KWATT coins will represent a share in the company’s fortunes.
It’s a timely concept, which comes at a moment when people are starting to view the power consumption of crypto mining as an environmental catastrophe – in Iceland alone mining rigs are about to consume more power than all of the nation’s homes combined.
Building a Franchise
Going one step further than just selling energy, a fast-growing startup in Romania is looking to pool energy resources together on the blockchain, where it can be bought and sold across the globe via their network’s naive token.
Restart Energy Democracy (RED) is already an established energy provider in their home country, but now they’re planning to franchise out their business to upstart energy vendors worldwide via the blockchain.
The basic concept behind RED is that energy vendors and consumers can interact directly via the blockchain, and conduct energy deals using RED’s native MWAT token. A consumer in Korea could conceivably buy energy directly from a vendor in Germany, assuming a RED franchise owner was operating in each of those two nations.
As their name tries to suggest, this democratizes the energy trade in a way that cuts out the big energy suppliers and the huge profit margins they gain at the expense of the customer.
Additionally, RED give the end user the chance to become a wholesaler of energy in their own countries by helping set them up with the technology, logistics and staff training required to get an energy franchise off the ground.
RED aren’t the first to attempt to tokenize energy supplies on the blockchain. Over 120 companies have popped up since the first energy transaction took place via blockchain in 2016.
Electrify.Asia aims to allow consumers to buy their energy directly from peers or electricity retailers using the blockchain and smart contracts.
The company points out that 60 percent of the population of the world is in Asia, with nearly half of that figure living in cities and being connected to the central power grids. It points to the recent liberalization of power grids within specific countries, including Japan in 2016 and parts of China.
As more countries liberalize the grids, consumers get more options for energy consumption. Unfortunately, the grids remain centralized and managed by corporations, even in areas with liberalized grids. Combined with the quickly growing demand for renewable energy resources, this leads to a need for change and Electrify Asia aims to solve this problem.
A Token of Independence?
The population of Spain’s Catalonia region have always held an uneasy relationship with their ruling officials in Madrid, and following last year’s failed bid for independence from Spain, are now seeking to find independence in a different way.
Following an announcement on June 1st, the Catalan government plans to unveil a new ERC20-based cryptocurrency which will facilitate the free trade of energy between inhabitants of the Catalan region.
The ION tokens, as they are known, will be airdropped to every citizen with a wallet, and could represent a major plot twist in Catalonia’s ongoing bid for sovereignty.
At the moment, the big energy suppliers forbid any individual from selling their own excess energy resources. Under the plans of the Catalan government, that’s exactly what the people of the region will be doing.
It’s an action that will upset the apple-cart both domestically and internationally, as energy companies start to worry that other nations might follow suit.
No initial buy-in will be required to use the ION tokens. They will be released for free to everyone with a compatible wallet – with one token being released for every kilowatt hour (kWh) the region produces making a total of 8.418 million ION.
The project leader at the Catalan Institute of Energy, Lluisa Marsal, stressed the fact that this move was not politically motivated, and is merely a way to improve the energy efficiency of the region.
Lluïsa Marsal: “Blockchain is a distributed Internet without giants monopolizing it” Image by Viaempresa
“The token has nothing to do with independence. It’s an energy token to manage micro-grids. This way the trading is not with the utility company but between the peers of these solar communities. The ION token powers all the transactions within the micro-grids.”
The plans of the Catalonian government are still some way from fruition and will require some major infrastructure overhauls to get it up and running, Marsal noted:
“When these micro-grids are massively deployed and many solar communities are formed, we aim for a total solar production equalling one solar power plant. This may take years, but we want to establish the value of 1 ION to 1kWh.”
As former Ethereum co-founder Charles Hoskinson told the Crypto ICO Summit held in Zurich, Switzerland in March 2018:
“Imagine you are a lawyer and you create your own 40 tokens that represent your services, you presale them, and people just buy your tokens in the open market. You can presale any of your services in the open market.”
The topic of Hoskinson’s speech was on the potential for blockchain to revolutionize the banking sector, but his comment touches on one of the fundamental sources of the blockchain’s power – namely its ability to provide a transparent ledger and a tokenized symbol of value at the same time.
Hoskinson expects brands, businesses and even people to be tokenized by 2020, and summed up with the line:
“There is always a token somewhere at the end of the rainbow.”
Energy companies are using crypto tokens in new and revolutionary ways, and may usher in a new era of energy management worldwide.
But Hoskinson’s recent speech acts as a reminder that much of the recent trend towards tokenizing everything comes from an old set of ideas which are now resurfacing in a new form.
Whereas once you could only buy or sell shares in a company, it seems like we might not be too far away from buying and selling shares in ourselves.