Virtual currency may boost Australia’s grassroots solar trade

An Australian company is introducing its own version of bitcoin that will let homeowners and businesses sell excess energy generated from their rooftop solar panels to neighbours, without a middleman taking a cut.
Perth-based Power Ledger today will offer 100mn so-called “power tokens” for sale at 8.8 US cents apiece, with a $25,000 cap to discourage large entities from controlling the market.
“This will make solar panels more viable financially and improve efficiency in the energy market,” Jemma Green, the company’s co-founder and chair, said in an interview on Friday. “It will also allow mum-and-dad investors who want to support renewable energy to buy small stakes in large-scale, community-owned solar projects.” According to a RenewEconomy report in April, Australia’s solar power capacity “is expected to double over the next few years as households continue to invest in rooftop panels to reduce electricity bills and the large-scale solar sector takes off after years of promise.”
About 5.6 gigawatts of the nation’s total solar capacity of 6 gigawatts comes from rooftop panels, with the balance derived from large-scale projects, according to RenewEconomy. While at this stage they only meet about 3.3% of the nation’s total energy demand, the panels are on 21% of suitable Australian rooftops, the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world, it said.
The tokens being issued by Power Ledger, started in May 2016, will also let solar farms to sell electricity to individual customers, and apartment buildings and offices trade energy from their rooftop solar panels, Green said.
To facilitate the trades, the company developed its own blockchain technology, which uses a distributed ledger to facilitate settlements without an intermediary. Blockchains are now being used for everything from concert ticket sales to distributing medical records confidentially and issuing catastrophe bonds.
“The Internet revolution has given us lots of ways of sharing information, but distributing it in a controlled way has previously been elusive,” Green said. “Blockchains are a way to ensure there’s only one true copy that can’t be altered and can be passed around among peers.”
The company’s “Initial Coin Offering,” or ICO, starts at 2pm Perth time today. After the sale, Power Ledger intends to market another 250mn tokens at a price yet to be determined, Green said.

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