Blockchain technology could help the energy sector protect the power grid and overcome some of the major barriers to the widespread use of renewable resources, they told industry-savvy legislators.
But before this can happen, the government must fund more blockchain research
Energy researchers and blockchain experts on Tuesday have highlighted a number of ways in which decentralized ledger technology could allow companies to of services to better manage the flow of electricity through power.
Wind, solar and other renewable technologies are offering individuals a way to generate their own energy, experts say, and as the power of do-it-yourself becomes more popular, energy storage spreads more and more through the network. As infrastructures become increasingly decentralized, blockchain could give companies a means to efficiently monitor usage and energy generation, they told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. [Blockchain] "[Blockchain]" means a network no longer centrally controlled and vulnerable to a grid Operator Attack: indicates a market where customers can choose where to buy electricity, "said Energy CEO Claire Henly Web Foundation.
While blockchain solves some of the computer problems that are provided with centralized information, other panelists have warned it carries its risks.
"Blockchain technology is not a necessary or major component of information security", said Arvind Narayanan, associate professor of computer science at Princeton University. "Policymakers should see it as a tool among many."
Blockchain allows users to store information on an encrypted ledger that permanently records each exchange The distributed nature makes it useful for keeping precious and guaranteeing data under control that information is not damaged, but it has recently become a sort of buzzword in technology circles, where there is a tendency to see new technology as the cure for each issue.
Technology is still relatively young and, like the first Internet, its potential benefits are hard to understand, said Henly. She and other speakers encouraged legislators to devote more resources to research and development, while encouraging partnerships between computer scientists and energy researchers.
Lawmakers also questioned witnesses on ways to stop cryptocurrency miners, who manage what are effectively server farms for transaction validation, from overwhelming local service companies.
The mineral cryptocurrency requires a lot of computational power and thus consumes a large amount of electricity. The cryptocurrency blog The digiconomist estimates worldwide Bitcoin miners will consume approximately 73 terawatt hours of electricity this year, about 18 times the annual energy consumption in New York.
As bitcoin prices rise, mining becomes more profitable and today miners are flocking rural areas like Eastern Washington to take advantage of low electricity costs. Legislators have expressed concern that these activities may overwhelm small public utilities and potentially increase electricity costs for day-to-day residents.
According to the speakers, legislators could explore ways to increase the electricity tariffs for individual Bitcoin miners or incentivize them to perform operations at night when the overall energy consumption is low. Thomas Golden, program manager for technological innovation at the Electric Power Research Institute, also hypothesized that the energy balance of mining will come down as Bitcoin prices fall and miners will explore more efficient techniques.