The German energy industry is starting to get ready for a new digital method of conducting transactions that could permanently change the industry. In a survey of 70 executives, half the respondents said they were already experimenting with so-called blockchain technology, or were planning to do so. These are the findings of a joint study by the Deutsche Energie-Agentur (dena) – the German Energy Agency – and ESMT Berlin. Blockchain is a decentralised method of exchanging, encrypting and storing data, securely and directly. This creates new opportunities for the energy market, such as a more direct exchange between decentralised energy producers and consumers.
‘In the second phase of the energy transition, it is important to link up the various components and stakeholders in the energy system in an intelligent way,’ said Andreas Kuhlmann, dena’s Chief Executive. ‘Blockchain technology offers a promising approach to this issue. It’s a good sign that some of the pioneers in the energy industry are taking a constructive look at this trend. It’s impossible to say today whether it will lead to successful business models. But the energy transition requires innovative stakeholders who have the courage and desire to shape the future.’
Christoph Burger, Senior Lecturer at ESMT Berlin, points out the need for political action: ‘Policymakers must pay more attention to the regulatory framework for a digital, decentralised energy supply, so that Germany and the European Union don’t fall behind the rest of the world. It would be well worth our while to reciprocally host international conferences or carry out initial pilot projects to accelerate this development. dena and ESMT are working together on this.’
Market potential and fields of application
Nearly two-thirds of the decision-makers surveyed as part of the study think a wider dissemination of blockchain is probable. 21 per cent even perceive this technology as key to fundamental market change – a game changer; a further 14 per cent see it at least as a niche solution. In the respondents’ view, the possible fields of application are very diverse. On the one hand, it could be applied to the optimisation of processes, such as billing, metering, mobility and network management. The other area of application is trading platforms, such as in the field of decentralised energy production.
At the same time, the study clearly shows that the potential of blockchain applications depends on the specific situation in which they are used. Competition is fierce and cost reduction potential limited, especially in markets where there are already efficient digital solutions for business-relevant exchange of data. In new and emerging markets, however, blockchain has the potential to become the dominant technology. It can increase the efficiency of transactions and enable direct exchanges, while at the same time reducing costs – for example, during charging and billing transactions for electric vehicles.
Blockchain is a new kind of technology for secure exchange and storage of data. Using this technology, transactions can be verified, validated and combined into blocks. Blockchain databases are considered to be tamper-proof, since the individual information blocks are subject to complex encryption and stored at decentralised locations. Probably the best-known use is the digital currency Bitcoin.
The blockchain study
The ‘Blockchain in the energy transition’ study was based on a survey of 70 executives from the energy industry and energy-related industries in Germany. Energy providers, grid operators and energy service providers were among those represented. The study was compiled jointly by dena and ESMT.
Deutsche Energie-Agentur GmbH (dena), Kerstin Ladiges, Chausseestrasse 128 a, 10115 Berlin, Germany
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