Jul 18, 2018

How blockchain is transforming energy systems

Photo: Lars Hagberg/AFP/Getty Images

Blockchain has begun to show promise for a wide range of energy applications, from energy trading platforms to carbon production registries to transaction frameworks in emerging markets. Distributed energy resources — including rooftop solar, energy storage and demand response — as well as microgrid systems and back-end business operating environments present other areas of opportunity.

Why it matters: These applications have sparked a boost in investment, estimated at $100 to $300 million since 2014 by the Energy Futures Futures Initiative and as much as $324 million in the last year alone by Greentech Media. As these industry changes accelerate, blockchain will help make energy systems more efficient and profitable.

Blockchain lets firms create a transaction architecture that slashes overhead costs, while at the same time providing more security. Some exponents overpromise that there’s a blockchain solution for every problem, but many blockchain innovations are already up and running:

  • Oil traders have used blockchain to reduce digital trading time from 3 hours to 25 minutes by speeding up verification and fraud detection.
  • In Brooklyn, a microgrid uses a blockchain backbone to automate peer-to-peer transactions between more than 60 energy producers (mostly solar photovoltaic systems) and 800 local consumers.
  • A network of more than 1,200 new electric-vehicle charging stations was built with blockchain.

What’s next: Regulators, investors and policymakers will have to work together on rules that will ensure blockchain applications reach their full potential, helping to exchange more energy more efficiently.

Alex Kizer is director of research at the Energy Futures Initiative (EFI).

Go deeper: EFI’s report on blockchain applications

Go deeper

Inside hackers' pivot to medical espionage

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A wave of cyber-spying around COVID-19 medical research is once more demonstrating the perils of treating cybersecurity as a separate, walled-off realm.

Driving the news: U.S. officials recently announced an uptick in Chinese-government affiliated hackers targeting medical research and other facilities in the United States for data on a potential COVID-19 cure or effective treatments to combat the virus. Additionally, “more than a dozen countries have redeployed military and intelligence hackers to glean whatever they can about other nations’ virus responses,” reports the New York Times.

The downsides of remote work

Data: Reproduced from Prudential/Morning Consult "Pulse of the American Worker Survey"; Chart: Axios Visuals

The coronavirus pandemic has forced a large-scale experiment in working from home. It has gone well enough that many companies are expanding their remote work expectations for the foreseeable future, and remote employees want to continue to work that way.

Yes, but: The downsides of remote work — less casual interaction with colleagues, an over-reliance on Zoom, lack of in-person collaboration and longer hours — could over time diminish the short-term gains.

Hong Kong's economic future hangs in the balance

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As Beijing forces a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, the once semi-autonomous city's status as one of Asia's largest financial hubs is at risk.

Why it matters: Political freedoms and strong rule of law helped make Hong Kong a thriving center for international banking and finance. But China's leaders may be betting that top firms in Hong Kong will trade some political freedoms for the economic prosperity Beijing can offer.