By Cameron Abbott and Sarah Goegan
Technology company IOT Group announced this week that it has signed an Australian first energy and blockchain deal. In the agreement with Hunter Energy, IOT Blockchain will build a blockchain centre at the Redbank coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley, two hours north of Sydney.
The power station was closed in 2014, but Hunter Energy is now working to recommission the plant, aiming to begin generation in 2019. Hunter Energy has also flagged potentially expanding the power station beyond coal, and is exploring developing battery and solar power on the site.
Harnessing blockchain technology offers an exciting opportunity for the energy industry. Whilst typically used in mining cryptocurrencies, the technology creates a decentralised network of accounting data and data movement that is highly secure and difficult to hack, offering more stability to the grid. It is also able to monitor changes in distribution and supply levels of power, from coal to renewable, and so respond to user demand when there are fluctuations in power input.
Blockchain specialists have previously avoided setting up business in the Australian market given blockchain’s high energy demand and the costs of electricity in Australia. As part of the deal, the blockchain centre would be put ‘behind the grid’, accessing electricity at wholesale prices. This is sure to be an enticing prospect to other international companies specialising in blockchain. The project also has the potential to cut energy prices by up to 20 per cent for consumers and businesses.
Last year, US-based company LO3 commenced trialling a transactive energy microgrid in South Australia that set up a peer-to-peer trading platform using blockchain for solar power on the local energy marketplace. The project involved setting up a meter to households or businesses to manage energy input and output, giving users access to cheaper electricity generated by local solar farms.
This merging of such an established industry and old infrastructure with the leading edge in technology is a fascinating paradox. Our energy generators are transforming into technological innovators!