Vienna's Viertel Zwei is an urban development project containing numerous innovative ideas - now it's piloting a project to test power sharing via the blockchain.
A residential area in the heart of one of Europe's great capitals, Viertel Zwei is designed to be a car-free green oasis for sustainable urban living. Started in 2015, it's currently partially completed, with further apartment buildings still to be constructed.
It also serves as a pilot research project, with Austrian utility Wien Energie as part of their "Urban Pioneers Initiative" now using the blockchain to allow for sharing and bidding for energy within both the residential area and the wider grid. It's part of a "living and sharing" concept that aims to organise co-habitation in the most efficient way possible and save on electricity and heating costs. They hope they'll be able to have 30 per cent fewer CO2 emissions than conventional housing projects.
How does the whole thing work?
One part of the energy consumed by residents is sourced from a nearby geothermal power plant. Photovoltaic systems on the roofs of the houses in Viertel Zwei, along with other installations on roofs, serve as designer shade thanks to clever architecture. The electricity generated by them is shared out and used among the residents as per their needs. However, if there is an excess supply - the sun is shining but nobody is at home to use the energy - then the generated power can be sold back into the grid.
There's nothing new about the concept of feeding energy back into the grid, but that's where the blockchain comes in. Power plants sell their electricity for high prices at peak times, and make it cheaper when demand is low. Blockchain democratises electricity trading by enabling private individuals to participate in it via smart contracts, also selling into the grid when demand is higher and more lucrative prices are available. The whole system works automatically, with residents only seeing the results in their account balance at the end of the year.
Wien Energie Chief Innovation Officer Astrid Schober told Reuters that it is appealing for the wider energy industry as transactions can become significant between big and small producers and their millions of energy customers across retail and business. The increasing availability of decentralised renewable energy volumes further adds complexity, and the blockchain removes much of the costly overhead of bureaucratic intermediate services.
“We are testing blockchain-based services in Vienna’s Viertel Zwei and once we have collected enough experience there, we will develop business models and bring them to market,” said Schober.
“It may be overoptimistic but services may become available this year as we are trying to be active and build the know-how in our company fast."
For more about how blockchain works and the role it could play in making the world a fairer, more transparent, and democratic place to live, check out our article, Blockchain: A Digital System For Real World Sustainability.
This is a translation by Tristan Rayner of the original article which first appeared on RESET's German-language site.