Dr Jemma Green: Harnessing the power of blockchain for energy

The co-founder and chairman of Power Ledger is harnessing the power of blockchain for the electricity market

Dr Jemma Green is co-founder and chairman of Power Ledger, a technology firm based in Perth in Australia, that enables distributed electricity markets using the blockchain.

The platform can be used to enable the trading of electricity as well as the settlement and payment between buyers and sellers. It is also used as a method of funding energy assets- how they are funding and operated.

There might be a household with solar panels or a battery that can “sell its surplus” to their neighbours or there could be large solar farms wanting to sell to smaller customers instead of one large wholesale market.

PhD student

Dr Green was introduced to two blockchain developers in 2016. At the time, she was doing a PhD focusing on disruption in the electricity markets.

Previously, she’d spent 11 years living in London working for the investment bank JP Morgan in equity derivatives risk.

She is a research fellow at Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute and Chair of Climate-KIC Australia, and a founder of the Global Blockchain Business Council.

“I was at the point in my PhD where I was designing a solar and battery system for an apartment building and condominium, and I was trying to find a software that would allocate units of electricity to each apartment where if you weren’t home to consume that allocation, you could trade it with your neighbours,” she says.

“I couldn’t find anything that did that, so when I had this meeting with these blockchain guys, I started looking into these applications for electricity and I saw that it could do exactly what I had intended for the apartment building.”

She introduced the blockchain developers to David Martin who worked in electricity networks utility management and electricity markets for more than 20 years.

Before cryptocurrency craze

She says they set up the company “before the cryptocurrency craze” took hold. She admits that she was initially “bamboozled” by the blockchain technology and it took a while to understand it. Her understanding of blockchain has deepened over time.

But she realised the potential was there for the “democratisation of power and the creation of a low cost, low carbon electricity market.”

Four months after the introduction, in May 2016, they set up Power Ledger with the idea of Peer to Peer trading across networks and within buildings.

The first deployment was in Auckland, New Zealand, of P2P trading with utility company Vector followed by one in Australia with Origin Energy.

They now have operations as far afield as the US, Thailand and Japan.

Power Ledger is involved in a project in California using electric vehicles encouraging them to charge during the day from solar-based electricity so they would receive a carbon credit.

Sir Richard Branson

She was recently given an award by Sir Richard Branson after winning the Extreme Tech Challenge which he judged and he says he was really inspired by their corporate mission.

He gave her a signed copy of his book in which he’d written: “Jemma: may you power the world.”

The company ethos is that electricity is “a basic human right” and that’s what drives their work.

Power Ledger says on its site: “Whether blockchain had come along or not, energy markets are undergoing unprecedented change.

“Through uptake, the cost of solar, wind and battery power has dropped below that of fossil fuels.”

Consumers are taking control of their own energy supply by installing solar and battery, meaning distributed energy resources are more widespread than ever before.

People frustrated

“But for all the change we still have a system where, increasingly, people are frustrated about paying so much for electricity and not getting a fair return on their solar investments. A system where storms or heatwaves can leave entire cities without power.

“Where not everyone can invest in renewable infrastructure and carbon initiatives are restricted by clunky registries,” the Power Ledger site explains.

She’s interested in the gender imbalance in blockchain, which is something I always ask about. As there are so few women in the space, compared to men.

“There used to be tonnes of women working in programming back in the 1970s,” she says. “That was before all the Steve Jobs hype.” She says it is a great field for women to work in.

Best person for job

For the past nine months, she’s been trying to hire a female programmer and “we want to hire the best person for the job,” she says. “There is no discrimination in this.” Inevitably, she’s faced trolling because of this with someone telling her its “illegal to hire women over men.”

She hopes by the time her three-year-old daughter is grown up there will be more empathy in the space. There’s also an issue with gaslighting in the workplace for women. It’s something she’s experienced and she says she will write about at some point.

On mass adoption, she believes it will happen in certain sectors. “We’ve started to see it reflected in Coinmarketcap in the top 100 uses for blockchain. Some of the blockchains that we thought were going to be big are moving down the rankings.”

She believes decentralised applications are crucial for mass adoption. “The protocol will be blockchain driven using dapp thesis,” she adds.

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