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Using Blockchain Technology, NREL Opens Window to Peer-to-Peer Energy Transactions (Text Version)

This is the text version of the video "Using Blockchain Technology, NREL Opens Window to Peer-to-Peer Energy Transactions."

A common vision for the future of the nation's energy grid involves homeowners selling unused power generated from rooftop solar panels to others in their communities, and working together to help ensure the reliability, resiliency, and security of the power grid everyone uses. But how can the grid manage such complex energy transactions at scale? Several emerging solutions rely on blockchain technology.

[Music playing]

Text appears over an animation that depicts digital connections between individuals. The text reads:

“[NREL + BlockCypher]. Pioneering Peer-to-Peer Energy Transactions” As the narrator begins to speak, the scene transitions to an Earth-from-space clip, then to a time-lapse of a city.

>>Narrator: Lower costs and better technologies for distributed energy resources are providing a whole new suite of control capabilities and generation resources for the electric grid. Among other benefits, distributed energy resources relieve pressure on centralized grids and can boost resiliency during outages. To take full advantage of these advanced technologies, BlockCypher and NREL are collaborating to develop a new application to prove the concept of an open market for peer-to-peer energy transactions.

The scene transitions to NREL and BlockChain researchers collaborating in a laboratory, surrounded by power hardware and computers. The scene cuts to a computer screen, where a graph indicates measurement of some event happening in time, and beneath it, the title “Sales Log.”

As the narrator continues, another computer screen is shown, this time with a user interacting with a program that displays energy-use activities by importance.

This kind of market would give consumers more choices and lower energy costs. It could also reduce infrastructure needs for utilities and give them a closer look at energy usage at the grid edge.

As the narrator continues, the scene cuts between several perspectives of large transmission lines. The scene then cuts to Karen Hsu of BlockCypher, standing in front of a small electronics laboratory. As Hsu begins speaking, text appears on screen: Karen Hsu. Head of Growth, BlockCypher.

>>Karen Hsu: The purpose of this project is to really figure out a way to incentivize people. And the best way to incentivize people is to pay them. And it's just that simple. So using the blockchain, we were able to show not only how you could pay people, but you could also show how you can send the energy receipt to that person. So it's not only paying, but it's sending data over the blockchain.

The scene cuts to various screen shots that are assumed to be the BlockCypher program that Hsu is describing. The scene cuts to several perspectives of this program before returning to Hsu in the laboratory.

As the narrator begins speaking, an animation of a giant digital padlock appears. The animation implies digital security, as the floating padlock is further secured by two digital chains, all of which is floating above paper currency and an ambiguous circular funnel.

>>Narrator: The application connects the home to blockchain infrastructure to settle energy contracts and associated transactions. Rapid transactions and next-to-nothing overhead costs make it possible. The scene returns to Hsu in the laboratory. The camera cuts between different perspectives of Hsu as they speak.

>>Karen Hsu: So it's kind of like you and I are neighbors; you have energy to sell, and I have energy to buy, usually at peak hours, because it's too expensive for me to buy it from the utilities. And so I'd love to buy it from you at a lower rate. And of course, you'd like to sell it to me for some kind of profit. Now, in this demonstration we're gonna show is really just that happening, right? So how would we set up an agreement for the price at which you are gonna sell energy to me?

Scene cuts back to footage of a computer screen that is presumably displaying the researcher’s program. The screen describes an apparent transaction, displaying values for the amount transacted, fees, and time received.

As the narrator continues, the scene transitions to a new clip of the software, and text appears overlaid, reading: [Blockchains have different strengths]. One type is used to send payment and smart meter readings because of its low fees and fast settlement times. A different blockchain is used for managing contracts between buyers and sellers. BlockCypher’s blockchain agnostic platform uses the blockchain best suited to each business need.

>>Narrator: This application cryptographically signs meter readings to prove energy was generated, then embeds them into the blockchain. This enables secure commodity tracking, with the smart meter providing the root of trust. For this demo, the application is integrated with an NREL-developed home energy management system called foresee. foresee controls the hardware and the laboratory as the system finds the reduced pricing available through the peer-to-peer contract.

As the narrator describes foresee, an animation depicting foresee appears: a home with lines emanating radially. In the bottom corner, text appears in a small circle: SMART HOME.

The scene then cuts to home appliances, like washers and dryers, in a laboratory setting. Scene cuts back to BlockCypher program on computer, then back to home appliances in a laboratory. Scene then returns to the depiction of a transaction in the BlockCypher program.

It schedules appliance operation for that window, reshaping the electrical load of the home and saving money for the homeowner. When the exchange has completed, payment confirmation and the receipt are sent, and the home returns to standard operations.

As narrator finishes, scene cuts to a clothes washer, then to Dylan Cutler in front of a wall of light bulbs. Text appears on screen: Dylan Cutler. Senior Engineer, NREL.

>>Dylan Cutler: Essentially what makes this lab unique for this project is the amount of hardware connected to actual electrical distribution inside the lab that allows us to test basically real-world home operations, all the appliances and devices in your house, but off the utility grid. And so we're dealing with the technical issues without having to resolve kind of all the policy and regulatory aspects. We can just test performance of this system in a lab environment.

Scene cuts to researcher working with home appliances in the laboratory. Then transitions to various clips of researchers collaborating within the laboratory, speaking among themselves or working on computers. Scene cuts back to wall of lightbulbs, and shows bulbs gradually illuminating. Scene then cuts back to Cutler speaking.

There's a lot of kind of talk around what blockchain could do for the energy sector, and so we wanted to bring this into the lab to do kind of controlled testing, and demonstrate some of the capabilities and start to understand what peer-to-peer transactions really look like. And so that's almost like a building block of what a larger distributed energy market could look like. I think where we would like to take this from here is to replicate what we're doing here, have hundreds of these homes being able to interact –

As Cutler speaks, scene cuts back to team collaborating and talking in the laboratory. Then cuts back to Cutler, then back to team talking and working. Then it cuts back to various scenes of the home appliance laboratory, including the wall of lightbulbs.

– in the exact same peer-to-peer mechanism, and integrate those to a distribution feeder model that we have here at the lab, and test out kind of impacts on larger utility grid systems, and how that impacts the utilities. Look at kind of the whole value proposition of this system.

Scene cuts to researcher walking down hallway full of cabling and research equipment. Then scene cuts to computer console feed, displaying random characters. As Cutler finishes, cuts back for their final words. Then scene cuts to Hsu in laboratory.

>>Karen Hsu: This team clearly knows what they're doing. They've been in this space for a long time, and they have the knowledge about the industry and the technology.

Video fades to blue, and NREL logo appears. Beneath logo, text appears: Learn more about NREL Partnerships at

Screen then fades to black. 

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