Blockchain and solar energy: is it a yes or a no?

Thoughts from the Digital Solar and Storage conferences, Brussels, 2019

Solar energy is the new hype right now, especially with the new developments throughout the legislative frameworks in Europe. To those who are curious about this topic, let me tell you that the demand for solar energy in Europe is expected to grow up to 80 per cent by 2020 in Europe. I did not know any of this. In fact, I was quite blissful when hearing people discussing solar, wind energy, or any sustainable form of energy. However, things have changed and times have changed. Facing the new era of global warming and climate crisis, blissfulness is not an option and we are required to learn more about the sustainable solutions. Participating at the Digital Solar and Storage conferences gave me a great input on how to combine the well-known blockchain system with the solar energy. 

Blockchain can work as a support for solar energy?

Yes, and quite well. Various companies across the globe are currently using the open-source blockchain which was developed by Energy Web Foundation in order to deploy state-of-the-art solutions for renewable energy and electric vehicle markets.

Meerim Ruslanova, Regulatory Analyst from the Energy Web Foundation, Ole Langniß, CEO & Co-Owner at Oli Systems, Loic Tilman, Head of Group Innovation at Elia Group, and Thierry Mathieu Co-Founder at TEO addressed some of the most challenging aspects on using blockchain in solar energy: how to choose the right tools to manage a solar powered Europe through digitalization and artificial intelligence and how to create a trusting system which allows the solar companies to control it and offer qualitative services to the clients of solar energy.

Another valuable point was added by Cristobal Irazoqui, Policy Officer Energy at the European Commission who had an input presentation on the work of the European Commission on blockchain and energy: there will be a new clean energy package regulation in Europe by 2020 and the objective is to encourage and ambition the member states to use sustainable forms of energy, in particular solar and wind energy.

What are the main challenges in using blockchain in solar energy?

Users trust blockchain, but when asked, the founders of the above mentioned companies agreed that immutability is one of the biggest challenges when using blockchain. Immutability, which practically means non-changeable, is also an advantage, because it offers stability to the clients, but also a challenge when it comes to smart contracts. The issue? Well, Loic Tilman argued that once the smart contract is ready and accepted by all parties, it cannot be changed. This can bring serious issues for unforeseen events or contracts with a longer period of time. This is why the drafters of the smart contract must be really careful when designing it and creating a win-win framework for all parties.

Another challenge is the data acquisition, according to Thierry Mathieu, since there must be a clean, trustful information to be put in the blockchain. The credibility of the blockchain relies on this and the profit of a business which uses blockchain as well.

Lastly, according to Ole Langniß, the existing hardware must be ready to fit in the blockchain. The society must be ready for blockchain, people must be trained really well for it and the businesses and start-ups must be eager to explore it and its benefits. The society might not be ready yet to innovate at the speed and the scale that we want and we expect and this is why the regulators must create the proper environment for it.

A great perspective for the future

This time, blockchain goes beyond the cryptocurrency and trade, and it gets integrated in solar energy. The future is now and the corporations are ready to use blockchain as a trustful system in areas such as energy, fuel, education, identification cards and passports, smart contracts, real estate, you name it. And we might have to face many challenges ahead, yes, but one great approach for addressing these challenges it creating sandboxes for innovation: shape the sand, add water, use it dry, use accessories, but innovate, have a result, have a figure to look at. It goes the same with the blockchain – now we just miss the sandbox.

Maria-Alexandra Constantinescu

International law student at KU Leuven and currently preparing my master’s thesis on the access to education of the refugees., Maria-Alexandra graduated from the law school in Bucharest, Romania, and subsequently from an international master on European and Global Law in Lisbon, Portugal. She is also a researcher at KU Leuven, creating together with my team the digital access to relevant information on European law, courts, conflicts and law enforcement. For her Master’s thesis I am combining the fundamental human right to education with the possible access offered by this new-digital era that we are living in. She was a YEL delegate to the 2019 Digital Solar & Storage event organized by SolarPower Europe. 

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