All over the world, grid based electricity is a common way of accessing electricity , but remote regions in developing world still do not have access to centralized grid. These persons mostly live in rural off-grid areas of developing nations like South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, which are far away from the central grid of these countries. Making the grid accessible to these communities by laying of transmission infrastructure is a costly project to undertake for the governments as well as it also places undue stress on central grids of the countries. In this context, many governments are now favoring the adoption of small-scale distributed sources of energy by offering various rebates, incentives and relaxed polices in the sector.
It is to be further noted that some of the developing countries in Asia and Africa have good to excellent solar radiation which is another reason why distributed small-scale solar is suggested as a cheap and an eco-friendly technology here.
The good news is also that new technologies like the ‘blockchain’ and ‘peer- to-peer microgrids’ can now be seamlessly incorporated in these distributed generation networks. Some successful pilot projects have shown that these technologies are facilitating an easy platform for the poor to self-generate and self-finance solar energy devoid of any dependence on the central grid. These off-grid regions are now transacting solar using a framework of microgrid combined with the technology of block chain. This has helped these grids avail peer-to-peer (P2P) sale of energy as well as self-finance and record transactions of the sale by using crypto currencies. Several of such projects have been implemented in Asia and Africa.
Introduction to BlockChain
BlockChain is a digital ledger, which is conducted on the Internet. The ledger can conduct transactions, agreements, contracts, payments, etc and is distributed across the computers worldwide. The ledger is designed to document exchanges of value with high accuracy and precision. Block chains can be private, small intranets (e.g. the solar micro grids) or they can be public, giving a completely transparent view. Block chains are a highly confidential ledger and immutable in nature.
In microgrids several houses are connected as a p2p (peer–to-peer) network so that they can transact energy with each other. These microgrids are community houses that are clustered closely together.
BlockChain enabled Microgrids and P2P trading in Rural Off-grid Solar
In P2P systems, off grid consumers can take advantage of other users who produce more energy than they need. Those consumers can sell their excess power for profit. The main advantages of P2P are: 1) No middleman. People make deals on their own terms 2) everyone saves money 3) All dealings are transparent dealings 4) Peer discounts can be incorporated 5) Stakeholders can choose to buy solar from a neighbor or solar farm
Block chain defining future of solar in rural sectors
Recently developing nations like India, Philippines, Indonesia and Africa have tried using crypto currencies and block chain enabled networks for managing their self-generated off-grid power. An Asian Development Bank study suggests that people in some of these nations like Africa have been using digital accounts with ease since many years mostly for handling peer- to-peer payments but not that much for financial investment or for stashing of savings etc.
Global examples of blockchain
Some examples of blockchain enabled platforms that are taking off as pilot projects mostly in developing nations are briefly covered below.
1-In Brooklyn, LO3 Energy and Siemens have established the Ethereum-based microgrid network that allows customers to buy and sell energy to their neighbors via the blockchain. Customers can now bypass the central grid and those with solar panels, can sell their excess energy to their peers in community.
2- ME SolShare in Bangladesh is installing block chain enabled energy access for rural people via a peer- to-peer microgrid that delivers PV solar power to households and enables them to trade their excess energy with each other.
3- In sub-Saharan Africa, an online marketplace named the ‘Sun Exchange ‘is opting for crowd funding of solar panels to deploy them in microgrid rural PV projects and the funders are transacting using Bitcoin.
4- In India, Power Ledger, an Australian startup is partnering with an Indian company Tech Mahindra to enable energy trading on micro grids where people can trade energy and exchange money digitally for transactions.
As the blockchain starts to gains traction, it will effectively permeate the off-grid solar domain in coming years. These two technologies together will make the energy generation and trading in off-grid domain efficient, cheap, and more environmentally friendly in remote regions of the world.