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Blockchain in energy sector will provide people with cheap electricity: Catharina Geiselhart, PwC

Blockchain in energy sector will provide people with cheap electricity: Catharina Geiselhart, PwC

People’s aiming at the independence from energy suppliers is not just a hype, and it is blockchain that will provide citizens with the efficient and cheap electricity. This is the view of Catharina Geiselhart, a speaker of Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Georgia and Senior Consultant at the world-known audit company – PwC. We talked to Catharina about the role of blockchain in the energy sector and the impact of decentralized technologies on common consumers in this area.

Interviewer: Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Georgia (BCG)
Respondent: Catharina Geiselhart (CG)

BCG: Hello, Catharina. What advantages in the energy sector does blockchain provide the country with?

CG: There are numerous trends that are reshaping the actual European energy sector. For example:

  • Electric vehicle are setting energy suppliers and grid operators in front of new challenges
  • A growing amount of smart devices are giving the possibility to have real time information about production and consumption and adapt to the needs of end consumers
  • An increasing number of households decide to produce energy themselves: having a solar panel on their roof, a little wind turbine and become what we call "prosumers". People get more conscious about their energy consumption and the will of more independency towards big energy suppliers is not just a hype.

Those trends can also be seen in a more global aspect:

When we talk about energy, we do not only talk about the electricity that is produced traded and distributed. We talk about politics, infrastructure, economy and people. People that are willing to share their bikes, their cares, their homes, and their electricity.

In the energy sector we summarize those trends in what we call the 4D:

  • Decarbonization
  • Decentralization
  • Digitalization
  • Democratization.

For example enabling people to buy and sell energy directly, in a very secure and transparent way and with a very high degree of independency. This is exactly where Blockchain started to make sense in the energy sector and become an enabling technology for a more decentralized but also democratized and stable energy system.

BCG: What are the main challenges of integrating Blockchain into the energy sector?

CG: The challenges that we face when implementing a new business model with Blockchain technology are very different regarding the use case but also the regulatory framework of the country. The hurdles that we have to overcome are often the regulation but also the technology itself. There is no need for Blockchain if you can trust the other parties.

BCG: What do you think the efficiency of Blockchain integration into the energy sector depends on?

CG: Like in every innovation project, we need to solve a problem, for a company but also for the end consumers. People do not care if the platform they use to trade their electricity in their neighborhood is based on Blockchain technology. They want to have security of supply, green electricity generated locally and at lower costs.

In our project with the Technische Werke Ludwigshafen (TWL), we are building an auto-balancing microgrid in a small region in Germany, where Blockchain and smart contracts enable us to match automatically supply and demand. We decided to use the technology developed by the Energy Web Foundation, because it is the most scalable and rapid technology by now.

BCG: How will the Blockchain integration into the energy sector affect common citizens?

CG: The impact of Blockchain is very different with regards of the energy infrastructure of a country. In European and developed countries, Blockchain in the energy sector enables us to have access to more data and store them in a more secure and temper-proofed way, it helps optimizing processes and reducing costs. In addition, it motivated many companies to build decentralized business models and adapting to the new expectation of their customers.

In emerging countries, if we succeed in bringing energy locally, in a more sustainable way and at lower costs, we could enable parents to provide also their girls with formal education. And if we prevent blackouts, we save lives.

Blockchain only is a computer protocol. It is different from a shared database because it contains validated proof of transactions, not on one central server, but on all the nodes of the network. It is a game changer, but it is nothing if we do not know how we want to use it.

BCG: In your opinion, what is the potential of Blockchain in the Georgian energy sector?

CG: The Georgian energy sector is particularly interesting because it is unregulated, which gives energy companies the freedom to experiment the technology without too much constrains. It is a luxury compared to other highly regulated energy markets!

BCG: You were involved in the study ‘The developing role of Blockchain in the energy sector’ in partnership with the World Energy Council. What was the subject of research, and what were its results?

CG: We conducted a lot of studies around Blockchain in the energy sector at PwC. The one we wrote with the World Energy Council is a status quo, two years after Blockchain hit the energy sector. Through our Blockchain energy radar we have a precise overview of all projects that are conducted in the Blockchain energy space. We wanted to talk with executives and startups engaged in successful Blockchain projects to have their opinion on the technology. We conducted interviews, we asked around 50 questions to utility companies, grid operators and Blockchain start-ups and presented the results at the world energy leaders' summit in Lisbon in October 2017.

The main question we wanted to answer was if global energy leaders see Blockchain as a catalyst for a future decentralized energy world. The interviewee agreed to a 100% on the fact that Blockchain has a disruptive potential and can contribute toward accelerating the speed of the energy transition. And this disruptive potential will break through soon according to 92% of the interviewee, more precisely within the next five years.

BCG: Could you please tell us about your presentation at Blockchain & Bitcoin Conference Georgia?

CG: I’d like to give an overview of how we see the future of the energy system shaped by new technologies like Blockchain and artificial intelligence. My key message is to prove based on current and valid projects that Blockchain is not only going to be a hype for the energy sector but it is a powerful tool for a more stable, sustainable and democratized energy system. It is still in construction, but it is time for decision makers to be part of it.

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