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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Belinda Kinkead, Director, Australia, LO3 Energy

Belinda Kinkead, Australian Director of LO3 Energy, with support of ARENA funding, will lead an Australia study of the blockchain technology for enabling the buying and selling of locally produced renewable energy in a farming community.

Q: What forms the basis of the technology?
Much like the Brooklyn Microgrid, the system is based around a “virtual microgrid”, where participants are linked in an internet of things (IoT) based marketplace while continuing to use the electricity distribution network for the physical transport of electricity.

Q: How will blockchain enable the buying and selling of local power?
The network will use ‘TAGe’ hybrid computer/meters to record data on energy usage and production of each participant and share it as ‘tokens’ on the blockchain based Exergy platform. This creates a decentralised energy marketplace in which participants use a smartphone app to set their energy usage and pricing preferences and ‘smart contracts’ are used to make automatic transactions of the energy ‘tokens’.

Q: What are some of the benefits?
In addition to facilitating the sale of megawatts from local producers and prosumers, the microgrid will also allow consumers to be paid for their ‘negawatts’ – the energy demand avoided by turning appliances off. When demand or generation puts pressure on the grid, any hybrid computer/meters that are set to accept energy reductions at a certain price will send signals to installed smart devices to reduce their usage or exports and ease local congestion.

Q: Would this work in most regions of Australia? 
Yes, we think so. We’re hoping that the Latrobe Valley Microgrid will be able to be replicated in other communities right across Australia.

Q: What benefit does this peer to peer trading offer communities in urban areas?
For many communities, the key benefits are the ability to keep the dollars they spend on energy within their local community, and saving money from their energy bills, and using local clean energy.

Q: Are there a lot of areas in Australia where this technology could be used in the future?
As Australia moves toward a lower carbon economy and retires more coal-fired power plants, more wind and solar projects will enter the market, but their intermittent generation will require new ways to store and manage energy. As more businesses and households install renewable energy systems there is an emerging opportunity to optimise these systems through orchestration.

Q: Why is it important for local governments to understand this innovation? 
Communities can prioritise what is important to them. That could be the ability to keep the dollars they spend on energy within their local community, or saving money from their energy bills, or using local clean energy. There are also resiliency benefits, as well as equity considerations, i.e. people that rent or can’t afford to put solar on their roof, can still buy energy within their local community and the community shares in the benefits.

Belinda Kinkead  will be discussing these issues, and more, in her presentation at the Renewable Cities Australia. This must-see industry event will run from 23 – 24 May at the Adelaide Convention Centre. To register for the conference or free exhibition, please click here.