Will blockchain morph the utilities world?

We’ve been talking about a lot of powerful new innovation possibilities during European Utility Week, but perhaps the most interesting is blockchain—a concept with lots of opportunities and excitement but few practical projects currently available to keep an eye on.

The “Blockchain – Democratising Energy” panel attempted to make both the positives and problems of this new concept practical and real, moving us past the “what is this” chat that has dominated just about every conversation about blockchain since we started thinking about its energy options.

The session for this #EUW18 session featured experts from the Grid Singularity and Energy Web Foundation, Vattenfall—along with a handful blockchain researchers and start-ups and tried to answer one burning question: How will blockchain help the utility industry be more customer-centric?

The panel unpacked the idea that blockchain can push consumer choice up the utility chain from services to truly centering the customer in one very new area—the marketspace (and not with the thinking of a “market” that offers a deal on lightbulbs or subsidizing a utility’s larger greener choice by two steps down the way by paying a fee or getting a credit).

To get to that space, one panelist noted, requires us to move from a utility framework and a utility point of view to a customer framework and a customer point of view.

It was added, of course, that this new area is, at the moment, perhaps not so “user friendly” but instead a crypto-geek smart world that doesn’t right now make it open across the board. To do so, as one panelist said, we have to scale the tech, the access, and the development of a CX that has more universal appeal and requires less specific skillsets to participate.

Is that possible? Sure. As they pointed out, many people use the internet without knowing how it actually works.

The panelists admitted, in the end, that this is still very early in the processes and that it is all very amorphous and changing—almost daily—along with questions about data and ethics and just who is the “custodian” of customer data (and to what level).

Despite those restrictions and limitations on the use of blockchain in energy transactions, from peer-to-peer on out, it all comes down to being willing to try, they advised.

As one panelist put it: “It’s a classic dilemma. Are we going to be pioneers or are we going to be followers? That’s a question we all have to answer.”

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