Carmaker Toyota is set to trial a blockchain-enabled peer-to-peer energy trading system which enables businesses, homeowners and electric vehicle (EV) drivers to exchange surplus power.
Under the scheme, businesses, homeowners and tenants with solar panels and battery storage systems will be able to sell excess, self-generated power to one another via a digital exchange market, which adapts prices to match supply and demand conditions. Drivers of plug-in hybrid EVs (PHEVs) will also be able to take part, selling and buying power for their vehicle batteries.
During all transactions, blockchain will act as a digital ledger, creating a verifiable and “unbreakable” audit trail. This not only boosts the security of the system, but helps consumers purchase electricity at times when it is cheapest, or when there is the most low-carbon power on the grid.
The pilot will begin next month at Toyota’s Higashifuji Technical Centre in Susono, Japan, and will be expanded to cover the surrounding area within its first month of operation. It is being undertaken in partnership with researchers at the University of Toyko and Japanese renewable energy company TRENDE, and will continue until May 2020.
In order to set up the trial, Toyota has set up its first electricity exchange model and installed an electricity management system powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). Called an “electricity trading agent”, the management system places orders to buy and sell electricity according to real-time power consumption data and forecasts of the electricity that will be generated by households’ and businesses’ solar panels.
“As distributed power supplies such as solar panels, secondary batteries and EVs become more widespread, Japan’s electricity supply has entered a transitional phase, shifting from a traditional, large-scale, consolidated system to a distributed system in which individuals and businesses own their own power supply,” Toyota said in a statement.
“The objective of the new test is to verify the economic advantage of having ‘prosumers’ – electricity consumers who are also energy producers using self-owned generating equipment. It will also assess the feasibility of a two-way, self-autonomous electricity supply system that allows direct trading with other prosumers.”
New tech on the block
Acting as a digital ledger, blockchain creates a verifiable audit trail that can be used for any transaction, and this is where its impact on sustainability begins to take shape.
It is already being used to enable peer-to-peer energy trading in London, where machine learning start-up Verv successfully sent 1kWh of energy from an array of solar panels on one of Hackney’s Banister House Estate’s roofs to another block within the social housing complex. Verv’s system is currently in phase one and is underway in collaboration with not-for-profit Repowering London. The company plans to use the results of the trial to roll out more energy trading communities across the UK.
Elsewhere, energy solutions firm Centrica is currently examining how blockchain can assist with multi-party peer-to-peer energy trading, using a trial amongst 200 businesses and residential participants in Cornwall to measure its success. The technology is being utilised as part of a £19m Local Energy Market (LEM) programme in Cornwall which creates a testing ground for an array of disruptive energy innovations, including flexible demand, renewable generation and storage across both the domestic and business sectors.
Away from energy, businesses are also turning to blockchain to manage sustainability progress across numerous sectors, from forestry and fisheries to farms and carbon accounting. edie recently rounded up eight of the most notable ways companies have been using blockchain to spur their sustainability actions in a feature which you can read here.