A Queensland blockchain startup is hoping to become an energy retailer in the second half of 2023, with a plan to change the way renters and apartment dwellers use electricity.
PowerPlay is currently raising capital to be able to sell power in Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia, using a tokenised system to reward people currently excluded from using rooftop solar.
Using a smart meter with five minute interval data and an app that shows customers how much power they’re using in real time as well as what’s happening in energy markets, the company hopes to help its customers make informed energy decisions about when they use electricity, says chief marketing officer Phoenix Shaw-Collery.
Smart contracts will reward customers will tokens when they use energy during the day, when prices are off-peak and when high levels of solar and wind power feeds into the grid. Higher usage during peak periods means they lose tokens. At the end of the month any remaining tokens can be used to get a discount on the power bill, or be held on to and pooled with others’ to create bigger benefits.
Shaw-Collery says customers can’t go into token ‘debt’.
“We are engaging that younger market in a fun, gamified energy experience that ties people’s energy use with what is happening in the wholesale market, using demand optimisation and passing those benefits on to customers,” he told RenewEconomy.
With rooftop and large-scale solar repeatedly squashing wholesale prices during the day, as happened again over the Easter weekend, Shaw-Collery says the idea is to give consumers the information to use that energy rather than sign up to pricey renewable energy plans.
“We think putting data in customer hands [is the key behaviour changer]. Say at the moment the grid is 80 per cent coal because it’s late at night, maybe don’t put the dishwasher on. Put it on at midday when there is more solar,” he says.
“The big problem is the duck curve. Households are the ones dictating the market price with their usage but they are not engaged with what’s happening in the market. Australia has this amazing problem where we have all of this clean green energy in the middle of the day and we don’t have enough storage for the next few years… so we need to shift our usage to the day when clean energy generation is happening.
“Governments are investing all this money in more renewable generation but nothing on educating and empowering consumers to switch energy usage to when that generation is happening.”
PowerPlay originally partnered with an energy retailer to supply the actual electricity, but during the wholesale market crisis in 2022 the partner stopped taking on customers.
Crypto tokens and electricity
PowerPlay is by no means the first Australian company to merge traditional electricity concepts with tokenomics, blockchains, and digital assets.
Australia began to dip its toes into tokenised power offerings in 2016, when Powerledger launched its energy track-and-trade platform.
In 2020-21, smart contracts for power purchase agreements (PPAs) emerged when Sydney retailer Mojo Power used the WePower blockchain platform to handle secondary market trading. The platform broke down Mojo Power’s PPA into smaller tokenised pieces in order to allow smaller organisations such as businesses access to that agreement.
The $32 billion tokenisation wave, predicted in 2021 during the last crest of crypto enthusiasm, has not eventuated, however.