This Sustainable Energy Nonprofit Is Helping 100 Power Companies Use Blockchain

Some of the most practical but least-hyped applications of decentralized ledgers are in the sustainable energy sector, where people can get tokenized rewards for using renewable energy sources and trade power with their neighbors. A nonprofit known as The Energy Web Foundation has been working to bring this industry’s blockchain use cases together by building an affiliate network where energy companies can learn about—and implement—decentralized tech. Today, the foundation announced that it has gained more than 100 affiliates, including large utilities from around the globe like Germany’s EnBW and a subsidiary of the State Grid Corporation of China.

The EWF was created through a partnership between Grid Singularity, which operates a decentralized platform for energy data, and the Rocky Mountain Institute. There are a number of startups working to fight climate change by incentivizing people to make sustainable energy choices and getting energy providers to more effectively track carbon emissions. The EWF wants to make these efforts cohesive, while also spreading them to big name affiliates like General Electric and Shell.

Jesse Morris

Affiliates of EWF will be among the first recruited to run validator nodes for the foundation’s Energy Web Chain network, built on Ethereum. They’re also meant to serve as “early adopters” for decentralized tech, setting an example for the rest of the industry. (The Energy Web Chain’s “enterprise grade” genesis block is scheduled to debut this summer, says Jesse Morris, the EWF’s chief commercial officer.)

EWF launched in the first half of 2017 with just 10 affiliates, getting up to 37 by February 2018, according to Morris. “Companies become EWF Affiliates for a wide variety of reasons,” says Morris. Some want to understand how blockchain could affect their businesses going forward, while others see EWF’s affiliate network “as a matchmaking opportunity,” where they can form new partnerships and develop their businesses.

Related: Power Ledger’s Jemma Green Is Fighting Climate Change by Helping Neighbors Trade Energy

EnBW, a multi-billion-dollar publicly traded utilities company run out of Karlsruhe, Germany, became an EWF affiliate “to better understand the logic of distributed ledger technologies and to recognize where their application could be useful,” says the company’s head of blockchain, Christian Sander. EnBW has been experimenting with some proof-of-concepts on the Ethereum blockchain, but Sander says it wants to work with other energy companies attached to EWF to learn more about governance, transaction cost, and scaling.

Christian Sander

So far, EnBW has completed one proof-of-concept, Sander says, where they track the quality of biogas, a renewable energy source. Using blockchain, EnBW generates tokens tied to the gas quality produced by their plants, and consumers can see “proof of quality” by receiving tokens for the delivered biogas.

Now that it’s reached over 100 affiliates, EWF is taking a slight break from bringing in new recruits. Instead, the organization is focused on launching Energy Web Chain and getting current affiliates to adopt. “Once the production chain is live this year, we will continue to recruit affiliates as before,” says Morris.

When the foundation does go back to finding new affiliates, it will be looking hard in South America and Asia. According to Morris, that’s where “critical gaps” remain in EWF’s network.

“There are undoubtedly some clear epicenters of activity in the energy blockchain world. Europe is at the forefront, with places such as North America and East Asia following,” he says. “EWF’s affiliates naturally reflect these trends.”