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Building Energy Data Key to Blockchain-Enabled Energy Management

Photo 96332560 © Elnur - Dreamstime

When people think about the blockchain-related energy sector, they think about automated transactions across a network. But not everyone realizes that businesses, particularly those with significant energy footprints, can benefit from blockchain-enabled energy management across their commercial real estate portfolios.

Energy management is evolving quickly. Between the shift to digital platforms, increased climate change awareness and resiliency planning, the way we monitor and interact with our energy consumption is changing drastically. What’s more, facilities and energy management professionals no longer only direct what goes on inside the building but are expected to add value to their properties and participate in the supply side which brings them into the broader energy market. The emergence of blockchain applications is affecting all those tasks. But our transactive energy future cannot exist without data, specifically granular equipment energy data from buildings.

Why Is Building Energy Data So Important?

As digital applications become more sophisticated, building controls and automation are increasingly critical for effective energy management. Companies are leveraging enterprise software to aggregate previously disparate Building Management System (BMS) data into one platform, analyze building performance and identify trends to prescribe efficiency measures across portfolios. These programs are also laying the data infrastructure for building owners to participate in blockchain-enabled transactional networks.

Examples of Energy Management and Utilities Working Together With Blockchain

For example, BEC Controls, in partnership with The University of Denver and Virginia Tech, recently received a $1.05 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop a blockchain-enabled building controls solution in ComEd’s Grid of the Future Lab. The program will fund the integration of BEC Controls software platform, WiseBldg, with building energy equipment. It will also monitor energy usage, run analytics and ultimately control energy systems to improve efficiency and transact with networks outside the building. This is the first blockchain-based energy management tool to be awarded Department of Energy funding. It’s transforming BEC Controls software into an “energy internet platform," enabling building and distributed energy resource (DER) owners to conduct peer-to-peer transactions with utilities and distribution system operators.

Blockchain-managed virtual power plants (VPP) are also using distributed ledger applications to integrate DERs. For example, the Kyocera office in Japan installed VPP using the company’s solar photovoltaic modules and batteries. New York-based LO3 Energy’s blockchain technology is now logging and managing the energy flow. Meanwhile, the distributed ledger verifies and records transactions to test energy trading via Kyocera’s microgrid. This program further develops Kyocera’s VPP technology by using data from sensors to increase the accuracy of distributed power sources. The project’s simulated transmission and distribution system operators will test the concept of reducing load burdens on the larger energy grid. It’s yet another example of data as the primary integrator of resources inside and outside of the building. These transactions will be of both electricity generation (kilowatt hours) demand response capacity and energy efficiency (megawatts) - at scale.

Finally, blockchain also fits into the broader electricity ecosystem. For instance, Rocky Mountain Institute developed its Energy Web Foundation to establish an “enterprise-grade blockchain platform specifically designed for the energy sector’s regulatory, operational, and market needs.” EWF Energy Web Chain is the home of decentralized application, where active developers can build and launch blockchain applications for participants in the Energy Web Foundation ecosystem. Participants in its affiliate program include large utilities, energy services companies and even oil and gas conglomerates. Ultimately, their intention is to engage with the Energy Web Foundation network to harness the potential of renewable energy resources, batteries, transactive grids and energy efficiency.

All of these examples show a distinct trend: blockchain is transforming the utility industry and building energy management in new and exciting ways. And data is leading this frontier of the bourgeoning blockchain ecosystem.

Co-authored with Julia Berg, Senior Manager, Corporate Development

Arvin Vohra's picture

Thank Arvin for the Post!

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Discussions

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Sep 24, 2019 12:50 pm GMT

These programs are also laying the data infrastructure for building owners to participate in blockchain-enabled transactional networks.

Thanks for sharing, Arvin. Is the idea here that blockchain allows for the data shared to be more accurate and assured, so the transactions and VPP interactions can be more optimized and efficient? Would the VPP solutions be operational if blockchain ledgers weren't an option, and if so what would be the detriment to a blockchain-less VPP?

Arvin Vohra's picture
Arvin Vohra on Sep 24, 2019 11:13 pm GMT

Thanks for asking Matt!

Yes, transactions of value are more efficient in that they are automatically verified via blockchain. VPPs can be operational without blockchain and are in development today. A blockchain-less VPP with DERs owned by various parties would require traditional settlement as opposed to automated transactions.

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