The U.K.blockchaincompany Energi Mine came out with a big partnership announcement in August. Every week of the month, the firm said, it would be announcing a new partnership. Why the fuss? Much of it has to do with the state of the energy blockchain market.
Early movers such as Energi Mine, which rewards users for saving energy, mostly have money in the bank, thanks to initial coin offerings. Now have to show they mean business as more entrants crowd the market.
Since the blockchain platforms take time to perfect, it’s important to find third parties that can help each startup develop proof-of-concept projects and build market momentum.
“Partnerships are very important for blockchain companies since they need people to adopt their platform to be successful,” said GTM Research grid edge analyst Colleen Metelitsa. “It's a common practice within the startup community in general.”
So, partnership announcements are the order of the day. Here are eight ones watch.
Power Ledger is the most well-known energy blockchain developer in Australia and one of the most rapidly growing peer-to-peer exchange platform companies in the business, with an impressive list of national and international projects.
In April it partnered with Northwestern University Evanston for a first commercial deployment in the U.S. More recently it unveiled a tie-up with Yolk Property Group for solar energy trading at the White Gum Valley residential development in Australia.
But its most significant partnership to date might be with Thai renewable developer BCPG.
The trial is the first across-the-meter trading project within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region, Power Ledger said, with Thai utility Metropolitan Electricity Authority allowing access to its network for the physical transaction of energy between participants.
Not only is this a pioneering project in one of Southeast Asia’s biggest energy markets, but also the first to face a government backlash in the form of fees on producers. What happens next will show how well blockchain schemes can withstand regulatory challenges.
There are people out there who aren’t convinced blockchain is up to the task of managing millions of energy transactions, and for now they may have a point.
Although work is underway to overcome the challenges, the fact remains that today’s blockchains are costly, slow and do not scale well.
One way to deal with the problem is to use a radically different blockchain design, such as Iota, which has been designed for the Internet of Things.
Engie could be one of the first energy companies to put Iota to the test, under an agreement hatched earlier this year and revealed this month.
“Many works and proofs of concept have already been realized in the lab and we would like to participate in larger projects in France and abroad,” said Philippe Calvez, research lab manager at Engie’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, in a press note.
U.K. blockchain startup Solo Energy revealed its first energy supplier partnership, with not-for-profit electricity and gas supplier Our Power, when it announced it had poached former Tesla executive Ben Hill as a commercial and technical adviser.
In the long run, though, the supply partnership may be more interesting to watch, since it will be the test of the relatively novel concept Solo is pushing: using blockchain to create a virtual power plant based on distributed energy storage systems.
The company aims to use a platform called FlexiGrid to aggregate residential and electric vehicle batteries, then use their spare capacity for peer-to-peer energy trading.
Singapore-based VeChain Foundation isn’t exactly a household name. But it was picked by Chinese battery giant BYD to help create a carbon banking system for electric vehicles.
The project was developed in collaboration with DNV GL, another energy industry megabrand.
Announcing the launch of the system this month, VeChain said: “This will be the first enterprise level application moving the data of millions of cars, buses, trains and other vehicles onto a public blockchain platform.”
LO3 Energy and the Energy Web Foundation announced a partnership in July to look at standardizing the data used for future energy blockchains.
The business relationship and the project are significant. These are two of the most revered names in the business. Their partnership was about solving a key problem for the industry – making sure standards are in place.
“We’re starting to see companies really recognize that it’s in their best interest to work together to scale the industry as quickly as possible, and to standardize it as quickly as possible, so you can get beyond pilots and use cases,” said Metelitsa.
The Austin, Texas clean energy incentive blockchain firm Swytch turned heads last month when it announced a deal to work with an entire city.
Chuncheon, the capital of Gangwon Province in South Korea, is hoping the collaboration will help to cut carbon emissions and improve sustainability.
"This partnership aims to address energy shortages while incentivizing infrastructure development in a city that is ready to decrease its dependence on fossil fuels," said Youngsook Park, Swytch’s vice president of business development in South Korea.
Although not an energy-related tie-up per se, Volkswagen’s Tangle integration project is worth watching because it represents another test for Iota, which is increasingly emerging as a viable competitor to the Ethereum blockchain most developers use today.
At the CeBIT ‘18 Expo in June, the companies unveiled a proof of concept that enables Volkswagen to use Iota’s Tangle architecture to transfer connected-car software updates over the air.
And finally, just who did Energi Mine end up partnering with in August? First up was a partnership with ON5, which works with European corporations to cut energy consumption.
Then Energi Mine went public with a collaboration featuring Jem Energy, a solar energy company. Next up came a deal with Hotel Cappucino, an environmentally friendly hotel in South Korea.
And Energi Mine rounded off the month by linking up with Solisco, a U.K. electric vehicle charging startup. Not bad for a month’s work. Let’s see if anything materializes.
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