Stories by Varun Sivaram

Expert Voices

Where blockchain will really matter in energy

Adapted from Livingston et al., 2018, "Applying Blockchain Technology to Electric Power Systems"; Chart: Axios Visuals

In 2017, startups raised over $300 million to apply blockchain technology to energy, and deal flow has only ballooned in 2018. Although evangelists herald blockchain as the new internet, capable of upending mainstays of the energy sector like the centralized power grid, many applications have created more hype than value.

The big picture: There has been a dearth of straightforward, publicly accessible data on blockchain experiments in the energy sector, but that’s starting to change. What we’ve seen so far makes clear that some of the humbler initiatives — those that work within the existing system and partner with incumbent utilities and regulators — are likely to have the greatest impact.

Expert Voices

How to align the digital revolution with a clean energy transition

autonomous vehicle at consumer electronics show in Shanghai
A Baidu apollo self-driving vehicle on display at the June 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Asia in Shanghai. Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

The digital revolution sweeping the energy sector would seem poised to help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Progress in artificial intelligence and computing power, the plunging cost of sensors and other digital equipment, and rising connectivity could all make it easier to use clean energy sources and cut wasteful energy use.

Yes, but: Digitalization is a double-edged sword. Unless policymakers around the world act quickly, it could make the global energy system dirtier. Policies such as carbon pricing are needed to steer the energy industry toward digital technologies that reduce emissions rather than raise them.

Expert Voices

Trump’s Energy Secretary to Congress: Please ignore my boss

Rick Perry
Secretary Perry at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Photo: Michael Brochstein / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

Tasked with defending the Trump administration’s 2019 Department of Energy budget to a Senate committee yesterday, Secretary Rick Perry instead hinted that senators should overrule White House cuts to energy innovation.

“If this Congress, this committee, supports the funding of that, it will be operated in a way you will be most pleased at,” Perry said of ARPA-E, an agency that invests in breakthrough energy technology bets and is slated for elimination in Trump’s budget.