Power Ledger: “Japan is a really good market”

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pv magazine Australia: What is the nature of the agreement with KEPCO?

Meagan Cojocar: It’s initially going to be 10 homes in Japan. We are not yet disclosing the amount of electricity that will be traded. We will establish a direct link for the Power Ledger platform to access the meter data, and then obviously there is the financial trades that happen, supported by billing and trading.

Power Ledger will provide KEPCO with access to our platform so that they can monitor electricity transaction between participants, enable peer to peer trading, generate invoicing, evaluate the trading position of each individual participant, and validate the security and accuracy of the platform.

So, the trial is going to take place through to the next year – until the March 30 2019. The success of the trial is taken into mean that there is an integration of actual participant metering data, there is accurate representation of the consumption, accurate representation of the trading positions of the individuals, and successful integration of participant financial details to support autonomous financial transactions.

So, what the significance of this for Power Ledger? Why Japan?

Cojocar: Japan is a really good market for this, and that is because, based on all of the crises in the energy system that they had, there is a lot of distrust for each other. They also all want to self-supply. They are known as people who really want their own solar, for example after the [2011 Fukushima-Daiichi] nuclear incident and the blackout, the amount of PV installations in the next five years reached records highs – but it wasn’t cost effective [to install residential solar]. It was because people were genuinely scarred about being left in the dark. So, Japan is really right for innovation.

It is also a very crypto friendly place, so people love the concept of being decentralized and using blockchain, and all the ethos that comes along with the software we use, so that’s very cool. Also, the utilities there are very progressive, especially Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO). They have been looking at how they can put their customers first, because they are in a competitive market with TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company].

But the utilities in Japan are also very regional. They are super regulated but also don’t talk to each other or like each other very much, even the grid itself isn’t particularly well interconnected – at least that is my understanding. Does that cause problems?

Cojocar: But they have a tone and perception issues I think. They really want to be seen on the forefront of innovation, especially KEPCO, which isn’t as well known as TEPCO – so this is really cool.

But for us, it is really big because we have this massive utility that has tons of customers, in Australia we don’t have this kind of scale, who’s looking at this and really want to develop Power Ledger into their platform and things they can offer their customer. So, this one year trial is quite a make-or-break for us, to see how it integrates with them and if it’s something they want to do or if it’s something our platform is capable of. And then if it’s successful, the potential is so enormous due to the massive amounts of customers there.

And beyond this announcement, what are the best or most interesting parts of the world for Power Ledger at the moment?

Cojocar: We are actually doing a ton of analysis about this at the moment, so it’s hard to say; Australia is really great, we are happy with that because it’s our ‘home court’. It’s very competitive on the east coast, the retail market have incentives to offer lower prices, and solar PV and batteries are way more widespread than elsewhere.

Germany is also a really good market. Regulations are a bit difficult, but there are tons of solar incentives, which means that a lot of consumers who are supplying themselves and there are a lot of innovators – especially in this area where people want to do something new.

A lot of places in the U.S such as Texas are getting really competitive in the retail market, so they are really primed for people to come in and offer something really unique that the customers want to see.

Elsewhere in Asia?

Cojocar: Most of Asia is pretty similar to Japan, everything is pretty held up. But what is really cool, for example, is that the Thai government is asking us: “ how do we develop?” The Malaysian government is asking us: “How can we develop our electricity system so that we don’t make the same mistakes as the developed nations?” Being part of those conversations has been huge.

This idea that developing nations can leapfrog to distributed technologies.

Cojocar: Exactly. So, there are two things, the potential in markets where there is something that’s already built out, and then there is potential in the growing markets, which is more so with developing Asian countries than Japan for example.

Transcribed and edited by Frederic Brown