Which energy blockchain companies should you keep an eye on in 2019? After a year in which new energy blockchain concepts seemed to crop up on an almost weekly basis, in theory there should be plenty of ventures to choose from.
To narrow things down, we asked energy and blockchain insiders for their top tips. As expected, the responses covered a wide array of contenders, from the internet-of-everything network Blockpass to the grid-scale token pioneer WePower.
Only four names were mentioned more than once, though. These are the ones we figure will really be worth watching next year.
London, U.K.-based trading platform developer Electron is “good and going forward,” said François Sonnet, co-founder of ElectriCChain, a blockchain technology developer affiliated with the renewable energy cryptocurrency SolarCoin.
There are several reasons why Electron stands out from the blockchain energy trading pack. It is one of the few ventures on the testosterone-heavy blockchain scene to have a female co-founder, Joanna ("Jo-Jo") Hubbard, in the top team.
Most importantly, though, the company eschewed the publicity glare of an initial coin offering in favor of building partnerships and seeking investments from energy industry heavyweights, with Tokyo Electric Power Company taking an early stake in the business in January 2018.
In a sector plagued with scams and hype, this down-to-earth approach to business has helped cement Electron’s reputation as a solid company with a sensible roadmap. Its moves to create an energy eBay will merit close attention in 2019.
Energy Web Foundation
While most energy blockchain ventures are looking to build applications on top of a distributed ledger technology, Energy Web Foundation (EWF) is looking at the ledger technology itself.
Recognizing that the current standard for most energy blockchains, based on Ethereum, is not really fit for the purpose, EWF is working on a platform specific for the industry.
“The Energy Web Foundation looks promising because of the large number of companies, including traditional corporates, that are already part of the network or are planning to join,” said Peter Davies, CEO and founder of the residential energy blockchain firm Verv.
EWF is planning to create open-source, scalable blockchain platforms specifically designed for the energy sector's regulatory, operational and market needs, he noted.
In October, EWF revealed it was building a blockchain of blockchains that would let consumers sell the energy they generate at home in markets worldwide.
New York-based LO3 Energy wins the prize for being the most-cited energy blockchain name to watch according to the experts we surveyed. In July, the company announced a data standardization partnership with EWF that promises significant benefits for the industry.
Molly Webb, CEO of Energy Unlocked and a consultant for LO3, said 2019 will be a year where ventures such as this will start to have an impact in the real world. “Energy utility business models are on the way out,” she said. “The blockchain bubble has burst. For both reasons, real use cases with real customers are what counts.”
Some of the more significant shifts, such as wholesale energy trading on blockchain, probably won’t crop up until the 2020s, she said, but in the meantime companies such as LO3 and Electron are expected to develop their core protocols further.
“I will not be surprised to see new products coming this year that challenge our current thinking,” Webb said. “In fact, I will be disappointed if I don't.”
Power Ledger emerged as one of our four companies to watch on the back of a busy year that saw the Australian energy trading platform launching initiatives in territories as far apart as the U.S., Thailand and Japan.
The problem it will face in 2019, along with other peer-to-peer energy trading platforms, is that its underlying blockchain technology is as yet not well equipped to deal with large numbers of low-value transactions.
“Blockchain is not a mature technology,” said Joan Collell, co-founder and chief operations officer at FlexiDAO, which is using a distributed ledger to match renewable energy production with consumption in real time.
“Instead of focusing on futuristic use cases such as peer-to-peer trading, now is the time to focus on doing basic things well: regulatory compliance, future-proof technology scalability and friendly user experience,” he said.