Peer-to-Peer electricity sharing


Home P2P and DER electric grid

With companies like Airbnb, Uber, VRBO, Swifto and zipcar, sharing services have become more popular than ever so it’s no surprise that the same trend is creeping up on our energy grids as well. The traditional way of having access to our electricity has been through the centralized infrastructure of large power plants and transmission lines that go on for miles. Today, rooftop solar panels, batteries and smart thermostats are a few ways we can distribute energy generation in what is described as the sharing economy revolution.

What does a sharing economy revolution actually mean?

Much like the sharing programs mentioned above, consumers will get a chance to step away from the monopolization of our energy sector and instead, get their energy resources from other consumers who are willing to distribute the energy collected from, let’s say, their solar panels. For example, a recently launched Netherlands based company, Vandebron, enables individuals to buy electricity from local farmers with excess production from solar PV panels or biogas-to-power- installation. It’s a win-win situation because the farmers get higher compensation from the platform per unit of electricity than they would selling their power to traditional utilities and the consumer gets to choose where their power comes from (each farm has a mini biography).

Essentially, in a shared economy, consumers will be able to share, sell, or buy energy services of consumer-owned and consumer-sited DERs (Distributed Energy Resources) such as solar panels and thermostats. The bulk power system has central power assets that idle the majority of the time which is a sign that there’s a lot of untapped value a shared economy can access. A shared economy solution can enable consumers to receive relief of system congestion and emission reductions by buying and selling to one another. This not only helps participants of the sharing program but also those who don’t wish to participate as it takes away much of the congestion that sometimes results in bad energy usage experiences.

This type of program is not strictly Peer-to-Peer (P2P), though it is primarily so. Mosaic, a California based company, provides a platform of energy sharing, though instead of using farmers, they use investors who fund solar projects sited on top of various buildings in order to get a rate of return they wouldn’t otherwise get while providing consumers with what they want. A company such as Mosaic that could be perfect for condos – especially those facing South and West – that want to invest in a shared resource economy.

The challenge that comes with this type of sharing economy is determining the best way to push into the market, keeping up clean energy programs and continuously providing the sought after reasonable rates while still having reliable service. The current utility systems are not yet equipped to uphold the payment, information and market disruption that birthed the sharing economy. Not to mention the lack of a trusted and open P2P platform that will allow for a shared economy. Though that hasn’t stopped the DER players from emerging around the world, it’s a crucial component to ensure the proper growth of this sector.

Monopolies vs consumers

One question remains; how will monopolistic energy companies react to this shift in the market? There’s no doubt that this is an optimal solution to the rising prices and over-congested energy grids we’re experiencing. It will definitely be interesting to see how it all plays out once this sharing economy hits its peak and proves to be a real challenge to the big companies because as it looks now, the electricity grid could most definitely become a peer-to-peer sharing economy.

How do you see this playing out? Could a P2P business model really improve how we receive our energy and change the face of our electric grid? Let me know at @signaturemark!