Blockchain buzz reached the heart of Boston’s Back Bay on Tuesday, as Power2Peer hosted another successful WeWork event focused on the future of energy distribution. Following an introductory networking session and the arrival of pizza, moderator and Power2Peer Founder/Chief Evangelist Dr. Nish Sonwalkar approached the podium to provide a brief overview of the central concepts underpinning the energy blockchain.
Sonwalkar then invited to the stage panelists Jill Feblowitz, Brad Bradshaw, and Derek Dicker, with each providing brief introductory remarks. In response to a question from the moderator about what’s driving the renewable energy industry right now, MIT Enterprise Forum Cleantech Committee Chair and consultant Jill Feblowitz pointed to climate change as an existential factor encouraging growth in the photovoltaic sphere.
“With more extreme weather events, people are more concerned with the resiliency of their systems. In addition, you have ‘good corporate citizens’ who are now deciding to set up their own solar panel arrays in order to reduce overhead costs, and these are all helping to drive the market.”
Veteran energy executive and CEO Brad Bradshaw expressed enthusiasm about how far solar has come in the last several decades. “In 1979, the cost of solar was a hundred times what it is today,” Bradshaw said. Nonetheless, economic hurdles remain for the solar industry, not the least of which being competitive lobbying on behalf of fossil fuels. Speaking on the challenges now facing fossil fuel energy companies, Bradshaw offered the context of diminished growth to help explain resistance to progress in renewable energy.
“From 1920 to 1974, the cost of energy dropped every year as power plants scaled up,” Bradshaw said. “Then oil prices skyrocketed in the 1970s. So how do you sustain an industry set up for 7% growth which is in fact now contracting? Solar is not helpful, efficiency is not helpful, so utilities fight solar.”
By contrast, Dennis Dicker’s engagement with renewable energy is at the level of the individual. As the Founder and CEO of Optonome, Dicker applies his various experience working both as an electrical engineer and former federal government employee to help lower living costs and improve autonomy for individuals with disabilities. When those individuals are homeowners, one relatively easy way to cut costs is to install solar units. For Dicker and his clients, solar microgrids, particularly in conjunction with transactive blockchain platforms, offer an exciting opportunity for people to maximize their return on investment.
“By installing solar panels into the property we are able to lower the costs of them living there, and with blockchain we are able to offset some of the cost of healthcare, for example.”
Regarding blockchain more generally, Dicker is optimistic about its range of application. “Once a marketplace of this kind is available, people will be able to build all kinds of solution. There are different ways on blockchain you can document different services, so a lot is possible.”
Such optimism was seconded by the rest of the panel. “New energy will be much more decentralized, and depend much less on fossil fuels,” Feblowitz said about the future. “And that’s going to help things a lot.”
“Right now there’s around half a billion dollars invested in energy blockchain companies, covering a lot of different use cases, including peer-to-peer,” Feblowitz continued. “The next step is getting bigger. Companies are now wondering if they can monetize the data of these blockchain companies.”
Speaking on the structural solutions offered by blockchain, Bradshaw gave storage as an example. “Energy storage is now transacted, so they’re going to need a transactive, low cost, blockchain-like solution.”
Following the main discussion was a Q&A session, with panelists and moderator fielding questions from the audience, of which consultants, investors, blockchain enthusiasts, and solar panel owners alike comprised. One attendee had questions about the logistics of solar panel insurance pursuant to microgrid network connectivity, while another sought the panel’s thoughts on the viability of blockchain ‘proof of work’ for a large scale, immediate demand transactive economy.
In response to the latter query, Dr. Sonwalkar espoused the advantage of the private blockchain, which can more quickly and easily obtain consensus for such networks. Moreover, Dr. Sonwalkar expressed optimism that a ‘blockchain 2.0’ will address questions of efficiency and viability with adequately baked-in programming solutions.
Speaking on other hurdles currently facing those who wish to conduct peer-to-peer energy transactions, Dr. Sonwalkar emphasized the value offered by Power2Peer.
“As things stand now, you need to sign up for Schedule Z. What we are doing with Power2Peer, you just sign up with our app, we do all the work on the back end, then you don’t have to deal with blockchain, Ethereum wallet, etc., and your transaction happens based on consensus. We ensure that all processes happen smoothly.”
The night concluded with a special demo presentation of Power2Peer’s forthcoming mobile app, P2PConnect. You can purchase equity in Power2Peer for the remainder of the ongoing StartEngine crowdfunding campaign here. Be sure to sign up for the Power2Peer newsletter to receive updates about future events and other company news.