Blockchain technology can play a leading role in the digitisation and in the sustainable renewal processes of the Energy & Utilities sector, contributing to the transition towards more efficient business models with a greater degree of automation. In a context in which the operators in the industry are increasingly driven towards investing in new architectures to optimise their processes and to expand the range of services offered, blockchain technology can be used to track and certify accurately in an immutable way all the information that these platforms and processes are required to manage and, at the same time, contribute to the disintermediation of the market, limiting inefficiencies linked to complex bureaucratic procedures and interactions among a multitude of actors.
The security, immutability and traceability intrinsic to blockchain technologies can support E&U operators in many complex activities: management of information and processes, such as the use of white certificates (energy-efficiency certificates); implementation of platforms for the management of electric charging stations; certification of energy consumed/produced within communities and geographical areas; offering of energy efficiency services or the accurate and punctual measurement of waste and electricity.
Through the analysis of significant use-cases within specific market areas, it is possible to understand the current scenario and the evolutionary potential of the Energy & Utilities sector enabled by blockchain technology.
The current process of buying and selling oil and gas is characterised by significant inefficiencies attributed to complex bureaucratic procedures. In this context, the introduction of blockchain technology makes it possible to create an independent platform through which sales and storage companies, carriers and users can directly trade natural gas, eliminating intermediaries, streamlining the overall process and favouring transparency.
PEER2PEER ENERGY TRADING
With the implementation of the new European legislation on regulations and incentives for the production of electricity from renewable sources, prosumers will be able to sell shares of self-produced renewable electricity directly on the market. The introduction of blockchain technology facilitates the creation of marketplaces where companies and individuals can buy and sell energy, with fewer institutional intermediaries and less bureaucracy than is the case today, thanks to the use of smart contracts that guarantee the renewable origin of the supply.
CERTIFICATES OF GUARANTEE OF ORIGIN
Given the growing attention of consumers towards environmental issues, there is an increasing need to certify the way energy is produced or extracted. In the market of certificates of guarantee of origin (GoOs) for electricity, the blockchain solution ensures the authenticity of the certificate, guaranteeing the origin from renewable sources, or certifying the place of origin of the commodity (such as oil or gas). Thanks to this approach, the need for intermediaries is eliminated and costs, as well as the risk of fraud, are significantly reduced.
Within the rapidly expanding electric car charging market, one of the main limitations is the low number of charging stations. With the use of smart contracts, solutions can be implemented in which the user pays for the electricity directly at the charging station, based on consumption and without the need for human intervention or control.
The correct management of water resources implies the reduction of waste and pollution, a goal still far from being fully achieved. A scenario still unexplored from a blockchain point of view, but potentially highly effective, would guarantee the certified control of water pollution, through IoT smart meters that can be installed on meters and aqueducts to track and certify consumption. The adoption of the technology would provide municipalities and utilities with an environmental monitoring tool capable of ensuring the applicability of the “Polluter Pays” principle.
Currently, it is very difficult to control water consumption by urban and industrial users, as meters are often read manually and their use is non-existent in the agricultural and livestock farming sectors. Blockchain technology makes it possible to track and certify water consumption, defining the related payments based on the actual volume consumed. Through the installation of smart meters for monitoring consumption and the creation of an infrastructure for tracking and associating the corresponding economic transactions, utilities and municipalities could have accurate and certified readings of the consumption of their water reservoir.
NETWORK BALANCE AND LOSSES
Being able to accurately monitor and certify the quantity of water introduced and withdrawn from the network would guarantee having area balances and the calculation of aqueduct losses. The use of blockchain technology can facilitate the certification of water network balances and subsequent verification of any leaks, thereby verifying the actual efficiency of the aqueducts. Through the installation of smart meters, along the network and at the withdrawal points, it is possible to calculate area balances in relation to user consumption, which can be verified by municipalities and operators.
COLLECTION CONTROL AND REWARDING
In the fragmented waste market, problems such as illegal waste markets and incorrect execution of separate collection are very common. The adoption of digital contracts and the tracking of economic exchanges, made possible by blockchain technology, help to counter these problems, keeping track of pollution and certified payments. Thanks to this approach, it is also possible to facilitate the activation of Rewarding mechanisms in the form of Energy Credits, which can be spent for recharging electric cars or as payment for energy consumption, or to determine the payment of monetary sanctions, in relation to the correct performance of differentiated collection.
The tracking of all the phases of waste production and disposal may be one of the solutions to ensure compliance with the requirements imposed by the European legal framework, made feasible through the combined use of blockchain and IoT solutions. The control exercised by technology, such as the integration of IoT sensors inside the bins, encourages people and industries to comply with the rules on separate waste collection and makes it possible to create analysis indices for energy production with respect to the amount of disposed waste.