Accelerating Carbon-Neutral Utilities with Decentralized Technology

By: The R3 Team

During CordaCon 2020, R3 hosted an impressive panel of energy technology experts in a fascinating discussion on progress towards greater use of renewable energy. The panelists – drawn from R3, Wipro Limited and Energy Web – looked at the acceleration of carbon-neutral utilities around the world, and at how decentralized technologies such as blockchain are aiding and enabling this process, including through multi-stakeholder participation and partnerships involving R3.

The challenges

Today, the rising threat and evidence of climate change means the world faces an urgent imperative: to transition from a primitive, linear, fossil-fuel based economy to a circular economy powered by renewable energy with a lower carbon emissions footprint. Yet this goal doesn’t fit easily with traditional energy architectures, which were designed for a centralized business model where control was contained within a single enterprise. Instead, the new innovation and business models emerging around control of the network need to be distributed across multiple participants. The answer lies in decentralized technologies such as Corda. Stressing the importance of speed, one panelist commented: “We have real milestones to hit, because if we don’t decarbonize the world, then it will be a bad place to live – not just for us, but also for our children and the generations to come. So the urgency is that the climate is there, but the good news is that the technology is there too.”

The solution

The speakers described a range of strategies and initiatives through which distributed technologies such as blockchain – including R3’s Corda – are helping to drive and enable decarbonization of the energy systems in countries and regions worldwide. One example was the building out of digital infrastructure to help cut carbon emissions from the electricity grid, backed and implemented by a broad alliance of energy and technology firms. Organized on a not-for-profit basis by Energy Web, the collaboration uses blockchain to provide a layer of trust to the decentralized infrastructure, enabling a wide array of applications to be run on top, such as certificates of origin for the provenance of the energy and tools to integrate energy assets into flexibility markets. In some territories these use cases are now in production. Another great initiative, described by Wipro, was the setting-up of up a peer-to-peer energy trading platform where consumers can sell surplus energy such as rooftop solar back to their energy company. The result is both lower costs and lower emissions – and what makes it even better is that any charging station can seamlessly join the network by signing a smart contract. These and many more examples were described in detail during the panel session.

“Clearly the control of the power network needs to be distributed across multiple participants and I think this is where blockchain plays a very crucial role.” – Varun Dube, General Manager – Blockchain Practice, Wipro Limited

The outcomes and benefits

The biggest takeaway from this compelling session was that decarbonization of energy through decentralized technology is happening now – and is moving rapidly towards hyperscale. Long-standing barriers such as a lack of interoperability between energy systems are being overcome, with energy consortia and banking and payments systems and ledgers all coming together to open up new possibilities and progress implementable solutions to production. And key pieces of the jigsaw such as such as digital currencies integrated into the circular economy are quickly falling into place. Put simply, the low-carbon future of energy is taking shape – supported by Corda.

To learn more, watch the presentation at CordaCon 2020.