Imagine a future where Irish consumers will be able to gift or sell their solar power across their neighbourhood as well as sharing and managing their own electricity in a myriad of new ways.  EnerPort, a new project launched at the International Energy Research Centre (IERC) Annual Conference, aims to accelerate peer-to-peer energy trading in Ireland through blockchain technology.

Led by the IERC, and in partnership with SFI’s INSIGHT Centre at NUI Galway, EnerPort also involves a number of indigenous companies including Systemlink Technologies, MSemicon, and Verbatm.  The project consortium will investigate blockchain technology as a solution to how energy can be traded, and how to potentially reward users for saving energy as well as managing small scale transactions between neighbours who generate electricity.

Speaking from the IERC Conference in Cork, IERC Director Prof. Tony Day said, “The  EnerPort project will prototype new ways to address the challenges currently slowing the progression of distributed networks. It will provide evidence of how policies, regulations and physical networks need to evolve to ensure Irish citizens have the strongest level of control on their energy bills. Ultimately, EnerPort provides a unique opportunity for Ireland to position itself as a research leader in an area which is expected to have significant growth in the near future.”

As our energy market grows, challenges include how to trust and validate the transactions made in distributed energy networks, how to enable stronger consumer engagement within that market and how to free up the trading regulations within our local networks. Responding to these challenges, IERC’s Enerport will investigate how technologies, such as blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT), provide a platform that enables companies and consumers to trade on a regional and even national scale.

“Peer-to-peer energy trading is changing the way we think about energy. The possibilities are huge: being able to gift some of your electricity to a friend, sell some of your solar or wind power to a neighbour, and more. We are delighted to bring our expertise from the Power Electronics Research Centre and the INSIGHT Centre for Data Analytics in both energy and data science to this joint project with the IERC and its industry partners. Dr. Thakur has been one of our pioneering researchers in the area of blockchain, which is extremely suited towards the management of (energy) resource trading and it’s facilitation of ‘smart contracts’ between stakeholders,” said Dr. John Breslin, Senior Lecturer, NUI Galway.

In terms of innovation, there are a limited number of existing projects worldwide which have been able to demonstrate the hardware and software requirements for energy trading and its applications in the context of the distributed grid. This project will provide scalable proof-of-concept demonstrations for blockchain-based peer-to-peer energy trading in the distributed grid and will address key challenges around hardware and software requirements and protocols, as well as issues around markets, regulations and policy.

Dr. Matthew Kennedy, Head of Strategy and Business at the IERC, described the EnerPort research challenges: “Ireland is experiencing a rapid growth in the deployment of technologies such as energy storage systems, electric vehicles, and smart home devices. We are investigating if existing energy markets are flexible or decentralised enough to accommodate this scale of integration of distributed grid technologies. Peer-to-peer energy trading, using distributed ledger technology, can potentially allow for a more localised energy balancing and improved integration of these distributed grid technologies. Such balancing requires an understanding of how smart meter technologies interact with blockchain, and how consumer trading decisions interact and communicate with a cloud based blockchain.”

Terry Madigan, Director of Systemlink Technologies, an industry partner in the project, outlined the potential impact of Enerport: “The EnerPort project will address important research questions relating to the future of energy trading in a world of vastly increased micro generation and consumption.”

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