Perth-based Blockchain energy trading company Power Ledger continues to build its business by striking international partnerships as it rides Bitcoin’s boom-and-bust rollercoaster in the wake of its $US27 million cryptcurrency IPO in October.
Power Ledger says its latest deal with US non-profit Helpanswers will lead to hundreds of clean energy trading projects, starting in the clean energy-rich markets of California, Texas, New York and the PJM utility footprint that stretches from Illinois through Pennsylvania and New Jersey to Washington DC.
Perth-based Power Ledger raised $US27 million ($34 million) in Australia’s first homegrown initial coil offering – or cryptocurrency IPO – in October, when Bitcoin was valued at about $US5,000.
It enjoyed a $30 million windfall as the Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin cryptcurrencies which it received for the POWRs tokens it issued soared in value in the next two months, but a big chunk of that windfall has evaporated in the subsequent meltdown.
Bitcoin is down to $US7,742, which leaves the $30 million windfall much reduced with part of it still in place.
“Like any company involved with cryptocurrencies, we are at the whim of those markets,” Power Ledger’s managing director Dave Martin said.
But Mr Martin said the company’s POWRs tokens have value independently of cryptocurrencies’ mayhem because they provide access to the Power Ledger trading platform. That allows holders to buy and sell surplus solar energy with their neighbours, a process known as “peer-to-peer” or P2P trading.
Platform is key to value
He said the funds raised in the initial coin offering were being used to make the Power Ledger platform globally accessible and lift it up to platform level” and the key to the company’s value would be “how successful we are in providing a P2P energy trading platform”.
The deal with Helpanswers, a non-profit founded by a former US department of Energy and IBM executive to accelerate the spread of clean energy, follows similar tie-ins with Tech Mahendra to build microgrids in India, a Thai-Government backed renewable energy developer working on peer-to-peer energy trading, and trial roll-outs in Auckland and Fremantle.
Power Ledger and Helpanswers have identified hundreds of sites across the US amounting to a combined 50 megawatts of solar power and 50 megawatt hours of battery energy storage.
The projects will start with large energy-intensive users such as low-income housing, water and wastewater facilities, cement plants, corporate and school campuses and buildings, and their utilities and market operators with peer-to-peer clean energy trading, and electric vehicle charging networks.
The projects aim to allow people to benefit from solar and energy storage assets in their communities and business markets whether or not they control the solar and storage, spreading the benefits of clean energy technologies and maximising the value they generate.
Trade surplus solar energy
Power Ledger uses the blockchain technology that underpins cryptocurrencies to allow households, community organisations and businesses to trade their surplus solar energy with each other at rates that exceed the low feed-in tariffs offered by must utilities.
The company, chaired by former JP Morgan banker Jemma Green, is one of three finalists in Richard Branson’s 2018 Extreme Tech Challenge.
It works with utilities who provide the distribution system to support the trading – an example of some of the new approaches incumbent energy companies are experimenting with to try and catch up with and benefit from the energy revolution that has upended business models based on the traditional one-way centralised grid.
Mark Johnson, who founded Helpanswers after a career at the US department of Energy, Schneider Electric, IBM Utilities/Energy and Navigant Consulting, said.
“We are very excited to bring the tried and tested Power Ledger Platform to North America with our technical assistance and customer care”.
Mr Martin said Mr Johnston was attractive as a partner because “he is a pretty solid hitter and really well entrenched within the US energy industry”.
“They come at this issue from the same perspective which is about the opportunity to make low carbon, low cost energy universally available,” he said.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Helpanswers to grow our technology and platform footprint in North America and bring Power Ledger a step closer to our goal of democratising power,” said
Blockchain is a “distributed ledger” that sits on a network of computers and is automatically updated across the network for each new transaction, making it difficult – but not impossible – to steal the digitally created currencies.
Power Ledger’s platform uses the technology to track the generation and consumption of electricity for all trading participants with compliant meters and autonomously settle energy trades on pre-determined terms and conditions.
US microgrids startup LO3 and others have blockchain peer-to-peer energy trading platforms in trials but Mr Martin said he was unaware of anyone with a product in the market like Power Ledger’s platform.
“It’s a good first mover advantage for us into the US market as well”, he said.
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