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Created on 05.12.2018

Sell your own electricity with blockchain: “B4U” makes it possible

in its very own innovation lab, various experts are working on ideas and projects where we see a lot of potential for the future. One of these projects is “B4U” (Blockchain for Utility), which is being developed and tested in collaboration with Energie Wasser Bern (ewb). In this article we show you how blockchain technology can be used to bill electricity, and how homeowners will be able to use it to earn and save money in future.

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Electricity is a such an integral part of our daily lives. Until recently, Swiss households only drew their electricity from the grids of the large energy companies. This all changed at the start of 2018. In Switzerland, any homeowner can now sell solar power themselves.

Making money with electricity just got easier

To homeowners looking to install a solar panel on their roofs, this sounds like a good thing that will bring in extra money. In Switzerland, eco-electricity we generate ourselves also entitles us to a one-off investment amount. This “one-off payment” (EIV) is something the Swiss Confederation has introduced to try and promote renewable energy.

If you have a little extra cash, these panels take no time to install. From this point onwards, however, billing for electricity sales will become a new task. This isn’t something that can be done overnight, either. It is in fact a recurring process for new producers of electricity. What’s more, unlike the big energy companies, homeowners are unlikely to have an accounting department to keep an eye on payments for electricity usage. It would be helpful to find a digital solution that would make earning money with solar power easier. This is where the “B4U” innovation case comes in. The project was launched by PostFinance in its very own innovation lab in collaboration with Energie Wasser Bern (ewb).

This is how “B4U” works

“B4U” measures and bills the electricity in a transparent, simple way using blockchain technology, which is an exciting prospect for anyone thinking of generating electricity. A pilot project was set up involving a homeowner and a cooperative, who are looking to use their own solar panels to sell eco-electricity to their tenants.

Test results: Trust in blockchain technology is key

First thing’s first, though: The blockchain application still needs tweaking before it is eventually launched on the market. The odd error did crop up connecting meters to the blockchain, which is also down to the sheer technical complexity of it all. But it is this complexity that is arousing the customers’ interest. “Blockchain” is a term many people know and associate with bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, but the fact this technology can also be used to calculate, say, solar power, is causing heads to turn. The results of the pilot project reveal that, in addition to general interest in the area, the extent to which direct electricity billing is accepted and trusted is also a major factor at play.

What exactly is a blockchain?

To get a better understanding of what it’s all about, it is a good idea to break up the term blockchain into “block” and “chain”. A blockchain is also popularly referred to as an “Internet of value” – values such as transaction data, time stamp and cryptic hash, which can be combined ad infinitum to form a single whole.

This technology is especially popular and well known in the field of cryptocurrency. A bitcoin blockchain, for instance, regulates all bitcoin transactions. Unlike official currencies, which we know very well, bitcoins are not administered from a central point. Instead, they are administrated online in a network of various different computers using blockchain technology.

“B4U”, however, is not about billing with bitcoin, but billing electricity transactions processed using this technology, the goal being to see how much electricity a given household has obtained from the grid. Measurement data is processed automatically and transparently, which means less work for the supplier.

Other blockchain applications in the pipeline

Measuring solar panel transactions and those of other devices is the first application currently being tested. But “B4U” also has many other applications for blockchain technology in the pipeline. After all, electricity and cryptocurrency payments aren’t the only thing that blockchain technology can do – there is so much more potential. The absolute priority, though, is always to make the customer’s life easier. In order to come up with other projects, digital transactions are already being sought that trigger a price and require administering.

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