The Internet is buzzing this month about the huge potential blockchain technology has to transform industries. Even sectors that seem unlikely, such as the dental industry, are seeing the benefits of this new technology. While Bitcoin has been criticized for being a huge energy consumer, blockchain technology can also help solve our energy problems.
Blockchain companies are encouraging people to use solar. Image: Shutterstock
Electricity produced by burning fossil fuels is the number one source of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. The impacts of burning this dirty fuel are damaging and expensive. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, in 2017 there were 16 weather and climate-related disasters in the U.S. that each cost more than $1 billion in losses. Energy access in the developing world is another tremendous problem. As part of its Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations has a target of providing affordable, reliable and modern energy for all by 2030. But there is still a way to go. Based on findings from a recent International Energy Agency report, more than a billion people globally still live without electricity.
How Blockchain Can Help
New blockchain solutions are making clean, decentralized energy, such as rooftop solar power, much more accessible, affordable and easier to adopt. Blockchain can also enable neighbors to trade clean energy with each other, without needing to go through a utility. It can even power systems that encourage people and businesses to conserve energy. There are already perks for eco-conscious individuals and their (digital) wallets, with new blockchain systems that reward those who take action against climate change.
For example, Sun Exchange uses blockchain to enable a global marketplace where members earn Bitcoin for bringing solar to the developing world. Through their platform, almost anyone with $10 and an internet connection can buy fractions of solar panels called ‘cells’ and rent them out to be installed on the empty roofs of schools, hospitals, communities and businesses in developing countries. This system also makes electricity cleaner and more affordable for the community or organization where the projects are installed. It’s the same idea as the apps that allow people to earn income by sharing their homes or cars, but for solar.
Another example is Energi Mine. The company developed a blockchain-based rewards system, that uses their ETK digital token to incentivize people to use less energy. People can earn ETK tokens for various energy-saving behaviors including reducing their power consumption at home, opting for public transport, purchasing energy efficient appliances, etc. Because ETK tokens have a market value, they can then be redeemed to pay for energy bills, electric vehicle recharging or they can be exchanged for “regular” (non-digital) currency. Users basically earn money for reducing their carbon footprint.
Blockchain technology is still in its early days, and it’s exciting to ponder the possibilities for the future of energy and the environment. Not only can blockchain redefine today’s broken electricity systems, it can also motivate new levels of climate action and environmental awareness among all of us.