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Could blockchain transform Aotearoa's energy sector?

Australasia's largest blockchain and cryptocurrency event ever came to Auckland last week. Among the items high on the agenda: how to make our energy sector not only simpler, but better.

A lot has been written about blockchain, such as how it allows businesses to interact directly with each other, or with their customers, without anyone in the middle (like you might find at a currency exchange kiosk at an airport). But let’s be honest: it’s still bloody confusing to most of us.

And that’s a problem, since blockchain has the potential to change how we supply energy to each other – at least as some people see it.

Worldwide, there is a growing demand to allow new producers of energy, like solar power, to be able to quickly sell energy to someone who needs it, and then possibly buy back whatever is not used. Currently, Aoteatoa’s energy sector does not work in such a way. But that could soon change.

As part of TechWeek, BlockchainLabs.nz organised TheBlockchain.nz conference, with speakers from around the world taking part in what was New Zealand’s largest blockchain conference ever. The conference’s EnergyTech workshop brought together energy industry leaders with blockchain specialists to explore the application blockchain in the sector. The event was attended by representatives from Aotearoa’s energy companies, government and council representatives, a lawyer and guest advisor Garrett MacDonald, a Blockchain Fellow to The Rocky Mountain Institute.

In short, blockchain could disrupt New Zealand’s energy sector because, at the moment, there are 29 different lines companies, each with their own pricing systems, and over 20 “energy retailers” that buy power from the lines companies and then sell that energy to homes and businesses. The problem becomes even more complicated because household energy consumption is also increasing, and with the increasing use of electric vehicles, this is only expected to continue.

BlockchainLabs co-founder Paul Salisbury said it was a big step to get so many influential and innovative people together to discuss how New Zealand’s energy industry could be transformed and simplified. “It was a great success to get representatives of so many energy sector participants into one room for this workshop,” he said.

And the next step? Actually coming up with solutions. “By establishing a working group, we now have a platform to standardise efforts moving forward. Our ultimate goal is that the solutions we deliver for the New Zealand market can set an example for less efficient energy markets around the world.”