How could blockchain benefit utility customers?
Another important element are smart contracts, in which the rules for completing transactions are carried out by executable programs. As a result, transactions occur automatically when the system detects that the conditions in the contract are met.
To reach agreement among all parties, there are several processes for the “nodes” (participants) in the blockchain network to approve transactions — this process is called “consensus.” By using the combination of these components, blockchain technology enables participants to keep track of transactions without centralized oversight, thereby creating trust among a group of participants in a network. The idea is that participants can be assured that there is one version of the truth. As a result, blockchain may not only be suitable for transactions among parties that know and trust each other, but also those that don’t yet know and trust each other.
We as utilities have many existing processes with partners that involve forms of automated transactions: our customers, the wholesale market, third-party energy suppliers, community solar companies, regulators, and many more. In the changing energy landscape, we are deploying smarter infrastructure and devices across the grid that are creating large volumes of data, while also seeing the rise of a whole host of customer activities as they engage with energy more.
All of this means that there will be many more transactions that require transparent processing, data privacy, and automation. As these technologies mature, we are looking at these blockchain technologies and how they fit our needs.
In total, a pool of over 50 use cases emerged. These use cases were then evaluated against criteria that flow from two core questions: 1) Does the use case actually need a blockchain solution or will another solution perform better? and 2) What are the benefits to participants at this stage?