November 27th, 2018

THE CONSUMER TECHNOLOGY ASSOCIATION CATCH UP WITH XTC 2018 WINNER POWER LEDGER

The Consumer Technology Association (CTA) caught up with XTC 2018 Winner Dr Jemma Green of Power Ledger to answer a few questions;

How was Power Ledger first created? What problem is Power Ledger trying to solve?

We started the company in May 2016 after seeing some issues in the electricity market. In 2013, I began a PhD in energy markets and disruptive innovation and one of the things I noticed was that barely any apartments, which make up 30% of the housing stock in Australia, have solar panels. Knowing that apartment blocks could operate as an energy retailer without a retail license, I designed an embedded network for apartment blocks to generate and trade solar energy.

I was struggling to find software to allocate units of electricity until 2016 when I was introduced to two blockchain developers, one of which is Power Ledger co-founder John Bulich. Once I learned more about how the blockchain works, I realised the technology could facilitate and regulate consumer energy trading in the way I had envisaged.

During this time, our fellow co-founder and Power Ledger’s managing director Dave Martin had identified some other issues in the market. After 20 years working in the energy industry, Dave saw what we now call the utility death spiral unfolding. In short, it means people are installing their own battery and solar — because it’s becoming cheaper for them to do so — and leaving the electricity grid behind in the process. When they do this, they make the grid more expensive for everyone left connected who are left supporting the cost of the existing infrastructure. It means the people that suffer most are the people who can least afford it.

It was with these ideas that Power Ledger was born. We put our heads together and decided to develop a market-making technology that would help bridge the gaps in the system and make it more fluid and responsive. Power Ledger was created to enable this marketplace so renewable energy can be affordable, low-carbon and available to everyone around the world. It means individuals are able to maximise the return on their renewable energy investments, while their neighbours are able to buy their renewable energy for cheaper. It maintains the value of the connected grid, while preventing the need to invest in expensive infrastructure in developing nations.

 

Tell us a little about the technology behind the Power Ledger products.

Power Ledger uses the blockchain to keep a tally of who is selling how much energy, to whom and when.

Our platform uses real-time data from existing smart meters to enable electricity trading between buyer and seller. It means there’s no additional hardware required, and also means our tech is low cost to deploy.

The use of blockchain means that the market can be real-time, transparent, scalable and above all else, frictionless — creating trust between all involved parties. The distributed nature means energy is local which has the benefit of saving money on transmission charges.

We’ve created a cryptographic token and a cryptocurrency that enable this market, called Sparkz and POWR. Sparkz represent electricity transactions and are linked to local fiat currency, and POWR is a license and a bond for utilities and application hosts to offer our software to their customers.

The two-token structure serves a lot of purposes, including global interoperability across jurisdictions while also ensuring Sparkz don’t fluctuate with the crypto markets.


 

Why is it so important to find new energy solutions?

There are a few key issues at play. Rising electricity costs, blackouts or no access to power and the potentially devastating toll the burning of coal, oil and gas is having on the Earth’s atmosphere. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency, “renewables need to be scaled up six times faster for the world to meet the Paris Agreement goals,” which emphasizes that the historical way of doing things isn’t enough.

Historically, consumers have been supplied electricity by large, dirty and centralised power stations, a long way from where that energy was being consumed. We had no control over when that power supply was unavailable, such as during blackouts, or if the price was too high. But with the rise of distributed renewable energy resources more consumers are taking control of their own energy requirements by installing solar panels as a source of electricity.

As solar panels become more widespread, more and more households are becoming energy self-sufficient. Although this is beneficial for them, in leaving the grid it makes it more expensive for remaining customers. It’s that utility death spiral I touched on earlier. It means people who can’t afford to install their own solar PV or battery are left footing higher bills, which is not sustainable.

The energy industry is already being disrupted, by the rapidly falling cost of distributed energy resources and the actions of consumers themselves. Our platform bridges the gap and incentivises customers to stay connected to the grid, sharing the benefits of cheaper, cleaner energy, while at the same time preserving the value of existing infrastructure.

 

Power Ledger was recently named the winner of the 2018 Extreme Tech Challenge. Tell us a little about that experience.

The whole experience from initial application right through to the final on Necker Island was incredible. We’re very honoured and excited to take the crown, and looking forward to what it might bring. Just to receive endorsement from Sir Richard Branson is a valuable thing, especially for an early-stage company.

For any company to receive that kind of validation of what they’re doing, adds a level of credibility and to a startup that’s striving to get its brand out there, kick goals and implement more projects, you can’t put a price on that.

The lead up to the final pitch was intense. The whole team contributed to the pitch and I must have practiced it over 100 times. I wanted to make sure I had the whole thing memorised. For everyone else, the time on Necker was a lot of fun. But I didn’t even go for a swim. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I wanted to make the most of it.

We also got some one-on-one time with Sir Richard over tea. That was surreal. He gave me a copy of his book and wrote in it: ‘Dear Jemma, may you power the world’.

While it’s a huge achievement and one we’re very proud of, winning the Extreme Tech Challenge isn’t the end of the project, it’s quite the opposite. In many ways it’s just the beginning for us at Power Ledger. It’s when things get really serious, and when the hard work really begins.

Sir Richard has one big date in his mind, and that’s 2050 carbon neutrality. We believe have a big role to play in that. We’ve set ourselves a huge, audacious task, and Sir Richard will be paying close attention to how we’re going about it.



What is next for Power Ledger?

The next phase for us is around scale and commercialisation. The adoption of our platform is now spread across six countries on three continents. From microgrid systems behind the meter to across the meter peer-to-peer energy trading, EV charging and carbon credit management, we are working diligently to deploy our range of products to businesses around the world in the energy sector.

Our partnership with Thai-government backed renewable energy provider BCPG has resulted in multiple projects in Thailand, including the T77 development in Bangkok which is connecting multiple buildings, including a shopping centre, international school, serviced apartments and a dental hospital. We’ve also got projects with Japan’s second-largest utility, Kansai Electric Power Co on a virtual power plant in Osaka as well as multiple projects in North America, Australia and more.

We’re focused on delivering on all our already-announced projects to meet all of our partners expectations, and then scaling that up.

In the energy industry, the speed of organic growth is typically glacial, but our planet doesn’t have time to wait for change.

If we’re going to turbocharge this growth in renewables, we need investment, so we’ve pioneered a product to do just this. It also happens to be the next major step in the Power Ledger journey. We’re working on a Product Disclosure Statement for our Asset Germination Events (AGEs). One of the key goals for AGEs is to open up new sources of capital for the renewable energy industry. The proposed AGE scheme allows investors to pay with anything from a few dollars worth of POWR to thousands. We see this as a huge opportunity for retail investors to get involved.

There’s also a huge opportunity for our technology to assist developing countries. When AGEs are live, they will present enormous potential for developing countries and also countries impacted by natural disasters to assist in funding, rebuilding and making income from assets.