Shell, Engie participate in new blockchain test network
(Montel) The Energy Web Foundation (EWF) has launched a new test blockchain network for the energy sector, with major firms Shell and Engie on board.
The test network, codenamed Tobalaba, is an open-sourced technology infrastructure that “will facilitate both commercial and non-commercial blockchain applications in the energy sector”, said EWF, a non-profit organisation founded by Rocky Mountain Institute and Grid Singularity earlier this year.

The network is currently in a preliminary testing phase, with larger-scale commercial start-up aimed for mid-2019, Ana Trbovich, Grid Singularity COO and EWF board member told Montel on Thursday.

“But it is real, it is happening now. It is not a concept paper,” she added.

Anglo-Dutch Shell and France’s Engie would be part of the test net, which also includes Singapore Power Group, Grid Singularity, Rocky Mountain Institute, Parity Technologies, Brainbot and, EWF said. 

Developing network
More stakeholders or "authorities" will be added as the network is developed, said Trbovich.

The Tobalaba network is a modification of Ethereum, one on the best known blockchain networks. 

“We are taking the most effective Ethereum implementation [Parity Client] and adapting it. We focus on features and functionality to make the system more efficient and faster for the energy sector,” said Trbovich. 

“Final speed and scale are still uncertain but we know the system works and are already achieving speed enhancements.”

For instance, the EWF blockchain was already surpassing the Ethereum transactions throughput “by one order of magnitude”, EWF said.

The test blockchain will be open source with the code available to the public from 1 November, with Shell and Engie, among many other EWF affiliate companies, contributing to the creation of a “public good, a new infrastructure for all to use”, said Trbovich.

The network will not be proprietary but companies will develop their own applications on the network, such as trading or peer to peer platforms, that will be commercial, while others may be free.

Secure system
“The stakeholders, or authorities, decide on standards upon which smart contracts are ‘whitelisted’, maintaining security in the otherwise open network”, said Ewald Hesse, CEO of Grid Singularity and vice president of the EWF. 

“Regulators will also be involved either in contributing to whitelisting standards in relevant areas or possibly also by directly acting as validators for certain types of smart contracts,” he said.

Whitelisting is the reverse of blacklisting, the naming of trusted firms or individuals.

In Spring 2017, a dozen energy firms joined the EWF, including Centrica, Elia and Statoil.

Blockchain, also known as distributed ledger technology, records and links every transaction made across a network, verifying it and reducing counterparty risk without the need of an intermediary. A decentralised ledger can record trading deals, perform billing or make back-office deals more efficient.

The technology can allow millions of energy devices such as water heaters, electric vehicles, batteries and solar installations to transact with each other at the distribution level. It can also provide support to utilities and grid operators to integrate more utility-scale variable renewable energy capacity at much lower cost. 

Reporting by:
Snjólfur Richard Sverrisson
16:51, Thursday, 5 October 2017

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