Coming out of this year's Annual Meeting in Davos, the World Economic Forum identified the blockchain as one of the Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2016. Blockchain – the technology behind the bitcoin digital currency – is a decentralized public ledger of transactions that no one person or company owns or controls. Like the Internet, the blockchain is an open, global infrastructure upon which other technologies and applications can be built.
According to Don Tapscott, co-author of "The Blockchain Revolution," it is this blockchain technology that holds the key to reinventing the energy grid. Tapscott posits in a recent Huffington Post article that while breakthroughs in solar-cell technology have led to greater variety in locally generated renewable energy, the underlying model is still broken: the local utility captures excess power in its supply for redistribution at wholesale rates, often with considerable leakage. In addition, in the near future, the Internet of Things (IoT) will enable billions of smart devices to sense, respond, communicate and share data. Those things will also have the ability to generate, buy and sell their own electricity. As a result, energy systems will have increased resiliency as well as increased energy efficiency, thus decreasing overall energy consumption and carbon emissions.
Inspired and motivated by this idea of a decentralized energy grid through smart contracts, I propose the creation of a digital platform, "Energy Blox," which optimizes blockchain technology for Peer-2-Peer energy sharing amongst critical infrastructures in a metroregion to foster energy efficiency through a systemic approach. Energy Blox aims to be the "AirBnB" of sustainable energy distribution in cities.
Similar to what is being done at the neighborhood scale by Transactive Grid in Brooklyn, I want to apply this concept to critical infrastructures in urban areas, such as an airport. According to various research by both UNEP and EIA, buildings (commercial and residential) account for the majority of energy consumption in cities. Specifically, buildings associated to hospitals and airports consume the bulk of the energy consumed in this sector. In developed countries, airports are currently being retrofitted to meet the growing demands of the cities they serve, while in developing countries, new airports are being built from scratch. By applying a sustainability-oriented innovation model through the use of blockchain technology, these critical infrastructures can maximize their energy savings through increased energy efficiency and sell the saved energy back into the city system.
In practice, an airport, a hospital or a shipping port authority could log-in to their Energy Blox account and upload their data on their daily energy savings that can be put back into the urban energy grid, creating a sustainable closed system. Cities are the largest emitters of GHGs but they also have the greatest capacity to solve our carbon challenge. By engaging the key commercial energy consumers of a city and making them the community prosumers, the metroregion as a whole can become more resilient, energy efficient and sustainable through a secure sharing economy model.
If you think this is an innovative idea to help our generation achieve a sustainable energy future, check out the MIT SOLVE CoLab challenge for #FUEL: Carbon Price and submit your vote for the "Energy Blox: Clean Energy Saving-to-Power Platform for Businesses" by Monday August 15th to make this a reality! Let's make clean sustainable energy our future!