Blockchain-Enabled Smart Meters  appear to be gaining traction lately in the energy market that is researching ways to benefit from the blockchain technology. There are two types of energy sector use cases that Blockchain can be applied; visionary use cases such as peer-to-peer energy-trading using cryptocurrency raised in initial coin offerings, and realistic ones focusing in the real-world challenges of the increasingly decentralized power grid.

Blockchain-enabled Clean Energy Trade

Utilities are evaluating use of blockchain as a distributed ledger technology to track renewable energy from the point of generation to the point of trade. That can bring new levels of visibility and efficiency to the complex processes that govern the multibillion-dollar trade in renewable energy certificates.

Utilities in Europe are currently using blockchain to track and certify megawatt-hours of clean energy, but can the same approach be applied also to the kilowatt-hour scale? Last week, a Nevada utility announced a pilot project with Las Vegas-based Blockchains LLC and the Switzerland-based nonprofit Energy Web Foundation. It will start with a handful of homes equipped with rooftop solar and blockchain-enabled smart meters, which targets to accurately track energy produced and turned into portfolio energy credits (PECs).

PECs are Nevada’s version of renewable energy credits and are used to meet the state’s renewable portfolio standard requirements. Today, those PECs are accounted for by state regulators through a process that relies on monthly meter data and engineering calculations. These are required to certify them with the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System run by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council. It works, but it’s time- and labor-intensive.

Adding digital decentralized identifiers at the level of individual meters could yield a far more accurate, verifiable and efficient process. NV Energy’s proof-of-concept project, approved by the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, will allow the utility to test that proposition “from the registration of a PEC-generating system, to the retirement of the PEC, and everything in between.”

Blockchain-Enabled Smart Meters

These Blockchain-Enabled Smart Meters are provided by Blockchains LLC , and Energy Web Foundation,. The latter is co-founded by Rocky Mountain Institute and blockchain technology company Grid Singularity, is supplying the underlying Energy Web Chain (EWC) system. Unlike the computation-heavy and energy-intensive proof-of-work blockchain systems such as Ethereum, used for Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, EWC uses a proof-of-authority mechanism that uses two to three orders of magnitude less energy, according to EWF.

Rooftop solar, behind-the-meter batteries, electric vehicle chargers and other distributed energy resources (DERs) are particularly well suited to blockchain-enabled smart meters. This is a technology that can replace the dedicated, hard-wired equipment traditionally used to measure and verify output from large-scale generators.

Europe has led in blockchain energy projects, with widening use in clean energy certification. There is a small but growing number of efforts, backed by European Union mandates, to enable peer-to-peer energy trading. Earlier this month, German federal energy agency DENA picked EWF to enable a digital registry of DERs across the country. These will cover from solar and battery installations to smart thermostats and appliances.

In the U.S., the technology is largely confined to utility and grid operator testing. These consist mainly of a handful of local energy marketplace projects from startup LO3 Energy. It’s still unclear whether the best fit for these applications will be blockchain, with its decentralized approach, or other distributed ledger technologies that centralize authority over the transactions involved.

A version of this article was first published on Greentech Media News