The Japanese utility Kansai Electric Power Co. has announced a second blockchain project six months after unveiling a collaboration with Australian company Power Ledger.

An announcement this October from Kepco (not to be confused with the South Korean electricity giant of the same name) did not mention Power Ledger and instead cited the University of Tokyo, Nihon Unisys and Mitsubishi UFJ Bank as partners.

“We have started empirical research on the determination of the price of surplus electricity generated by photovoltaic power, and a new system capable of direct trading,” Kepco said in the release. 

“Through this empirical research, we will acquire knowledge on direct power transactions using blockchain technology,” Kepco said. 

The company said blockchain has the potential to enable financial transactions between prosumers, without involving utilities.

Kepco, Japan’s second-largest electric utility after Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), is carrying out the work, including logging simulated energy transactions on blockchain, at research facilities in Osaka, the company said. 

An outline of the research said the project is due to last through to the end of March next year. 

GTM understands the project will involve the simulated sale of solar energy to a range of potential takers, with allocation according to an automated trading algorithm then logging of transaction data on blockchain at 30-minute intervals. 

Kepco said the University of Tokyo would be evaluating the research. Nihon Unisys is building the IT systems for the project and Mitsubishi UFJ Bank is providing blockchain transaction expertise.   

In May, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group and Akamai Technologies announced the development of a blockchain platform capable of processing a million transactions per second and finalizing transactions in less than two seconds. 

The platform, which is well ahead of current blockchain capabilities, is scheduled to be available as a global payment network service from the 2019 fiscal year, Mitsubishi UFJ said

Kepco’s latest announcement comes after a partnership earlier this year with Power Ledger, the Australian peer-to-peer energy trading blockchain company.

The aim of the partnership is “to provide communities with cheaper energy systems to offset existing energy costs and allow generating customers to monetize their renewable energy investments by selling their excess energy peer-to-peer,” Power Ledger said in April.

Kepco is hoping to use Power Ledger’s technology to develop virtual power plants using aggregated residential solar and storage, the Australian company said.

The project was initially scheduled to allow up to 10 Kepco customer households in Osaka to trade energy over Power Ledger’s blockchain platform. Aimie Rigas, Power Ledger’s marketing manager, told GTM the project “is on track and progressing as scheduled.”

Kepco’s interest in blockchain mirrors growing enthusiasm for the technology among power companies elsewhere in Japan and the Far East. Tepco, for example, has invested in at least two blockchain platform developers: Conjoule in July 2017 and Electron at the end of last year.

And in March of this year, Japan’s third-largest electric utility, Chubu Electric Power Company, said it was working with Japanese blockchain startup Nayuta and IT systems integrator Infoteria on a blockchain-based charging system for electric vehicles. 

“With this technology, it will become possible to run a highly reliable charging management system based on a low introduction cost,” said Chubu Electric Power in a press note.

“That likely would create new services by, for instance, enabling multi-unit dwelling owners to install charging equipment at reasonable prices.”

Elsewhere in Asia-Pacific, the blockchain firm ixo Foundation is working with sustainable finance house South Pole and certification body Gold Standard on carbon-credit system in Thailand, and BYD, DNV GL and VeChain have a similar initiative in China. 

South Korea’s Korea Electric Power Corporation, meanwhile, is testing blockchain-based peer-to-peer trading in Seoul, and elsewhere in the country the U.S. startup Swytch is working with the city of Chuncheon on a blockchain platform for emissions reduction. 

Jesse Morris, chief commercial officer at energy blockchain technology developer Energy Web Foundation, said the latest Kepco project was one of many peer-to-peer trading pilots now being carried out around the world.

“The pilot reads as very, very high level, as it is a simulation,” he said. “It’s not clear that it's a field demonstration with actual connected solar assets and/or smart meters.”