The second Innovation Talk in 2018 put the blockchain technology center stage. A panel discussion was held on the topic of Blockchain Solutions for the Energy Industry that was attended by more than 60 managers ESTT partners. It was moderated by Prof. Werner H. Hoffmann and featured four panelists from Wien Energie, Grid Singularity, Riddle & Code as well as the newly founded WU Crypto-Economics Institute. There was a lively discussion looking at the topic from multiple perspectives. Please see a short review below.
A suitable parallel of the current status of blockchain is the emergence of the internet, where initially the technology was confused with single use cases, such as email, and there were severe technical limitations which prevented many companies from seeing the disruptive potential of the new technology.
Erwin Smole, CSO at GridSingularity: “We are creating a public high performance blockchain platform, with the objective to coordinate increasing numbers of energy producers and flexible loads, enabling a wide spectrum of energy market related transactions on a single platform layer”
Blockchain solutions can have both an enabling function (e.g. O&G industry: blockchain for trading, logistics, procurement, etc.), making existing processes more efficient and secure, but also a disruptive function, changing fundamentally the role that some actors will occupy in the value chain (e.g. utilities: peer-to-peer trading enabled by blockchain). The closer companies can work with their customers, the better they will be able to understand how to provide value using blockchain solutions and how their future business models will look like.
Juergen Eckel, CIO at Riddle & Code: “We are providing the infrastructure for the sharing and machine economy. The advent of distributed energy generation and high-capacity batteries in combination with IoT + blockchain technology is disrupting the supply and sale of energy by creating an emergent electrical grid where the means of
production are less centralized and the control systems are less likely to be centralized. Energy will ultimately become a commodity and companies will need to come up with new value added services for their customers around smart homes, e-mobility and smart buildings, the new touch points with their customers”
Wolfang Otter, Product Developer at Wien Energie: “Wien Energie is committed to exploring the technology and the opportunities it could offer us and our customers and our interest lies very much in bringing blockchain into the homes of people here in Vienna. We believe that in the end the technology can only prove its value if it is adopted and used regularly”
Looking at mass adoption, a mass market may be less than a decade away. It’s foreseen that blockchain will not be pioneered in Western countries, but more likely in Asia and Africa, where regulators are working closely to enable the market rather than to ring-fence it. Firms are well recommended to enable trial and learning in different parts of the firm, which is the path to understanding and integrating blockchain technology.
Alfred Taudes, Professor, Head of WU Research Institute for Cryptoeconomics: “Blockchains offer trust-less automated transaction processing and immutable distributed storage -needs that fit well the energy industry, which often acts as intermediary in complex market settings and has a capital-intensive production process with long-lived assets. Thus, blockchains are a game changer in the industry, affecting a number of core processes. Those players who learn to use the new possibilities fast will thrive, those not willing to adapt will suffer”.