Blockchain Could Help Bring Renewable Energy to the Power Grid, Experts Tell Congress

Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

But lawmakers want to know how to stop cryptocurrency miners from overwhelming local utility companies.

Blockchain technology could help the energy sector secure the power grid and overcome some of the biggest barriers to widespread use of renewable resources, industry experts told lawmakers.

But before that can happen, the government needs to fund more blockchain research and find a way to stop cryptocurrency miners from bogging down rural utility companies, they said.

Energy researchers and blockchain experts on Tuesday highlighted a handful of ways decentralized ledger technology could allow utility companies to better manage the flow of electricity across the power grid.

Wind, solar and other renewable technologies are offering individuals a way to generate their own energy, experts said, and as DIY-power becomes more popular, energy storage is becoming more spread across the grid. As infrastructure becomes increasingly decentralized, blockchain could give companies a means to efficiently track energy usage and generation, they told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“[Blockchain] means a grid that’s no longer centrally controlled and vulnerable to a grid operator attack—it means a market where customers can choose where they buy electricity,” said Claire Henly, managing director of the Energy Web Foundation.

While blockchain solves some of the cyber issues that come with centralized information, other panelists warned it carries its own risks.

“Blockchain technology is not a necessary or core component of cybersecurity,” said Arvind Narayanan, a computer science associate professor at Princeton University. “Policymakers should view it as one tool among many.”

Blockchain allows users to store information on an encrypted ledger that permanently records every exchange. It’s distributed nature makes it useful for keeping tabs on valuable data and ensuring information doesn’t get corrupted, but it’s recently become something of a buzzword in tech circles, where there’s a tendency to see new technology as the cure to every issue.

The technology is still relatively young, and like the early internet, its potential benefits are difficult to grasp, Henly said. She and other panelists encouraged lawmakers to devote more resources into research and development, while potentially incentivizing partnerships between computer scientists and energy researchers.

Lawmakers also questioned witnesses on ways to stop cryptocurrency miners, who run what are effectively server farms for validating transactions, from overwhelming local utility companies.

Mining cryptocurrency takes lots of computational power and thus consumes a massive amount of electricity. The cryptocurrency blog Digiconomist estimates worldwide Bitcoin miners will eat up roughly 73 terawatt-hours of electricity this year, roughly 18-times the annual energy consumption of New York City.

As Bitcoin prices rise, mining becomes more lucrative, and today miners are flocking to rural areas like Eastern Washington to take advantage of low electricity costs. Lawmakers expressed concerns that such activities could overwhelm small utility companies and potentially drive up electricity costs for everyday residents.

Panelists said lawmakers could explore ways to raise electric rates for individual Bitcoin miners or incentivize them to run operations overnight when overall power consumption is low. Thomas Golden, program manager for technology innovation at the Electric Power Research Institute, also speculated the energy toll of mining will go down as Bitcoin prices drop and miners explore more efficient techniques.

Jack Corrigan is a Staff Correspondent for Nextgov, where this article was originally published.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Integrated city systems, unified data, & automation drive 316% increase in field efficiency
Seattle, WA, USA
Improved Water Quality and More Field Time Due to a 97% Reduction in Office Admin Work
Marin County, CA, USA
Small city of Baldwin with <5K residents is now serving its community like a big city
Baldwin, GA, USA

NEXT STORY: San Francisco’s Program to Link Startups to Cities Expands

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.