“Brexit means Brexit” was a famous tagline of the British Prime Minister Theresa May when she started campaigning to take over Number 10 on 11 July 2016. In the final weeks before her departure, Mrs. May also committed the UK to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 by amending the Climate Change Act. The combination of Brexit and the 2050 emissions target are oblique nods to the desire for greater ‘energy sovereignty’ in a post-Brexit energy market.
Currently, the UK imports electricity from EU-27 countries, predominantly France, Ireland and the Netherlands. Connecting the UK grid with these countries are four international electricity cables, known as ‘interconnectors’, which have a capacity of 4 gigawatts (GW) and provide approximately 6%-10% of Britain’s total power supply. With 11 new interconnectors linking the UK and other European countries, including Denmark, Germany and Belgium, being contracted or planned, this percentage is expected to climb above 20% by 2025.
No matter if Brexit is ‘soft’ or ‘hard’, changes to such connections with continental Europe will be inevitable. Brexit poses a lurking risk to (renewable) energy trading across borders, as the Single Electricity Market cannot continue as it is. It is nigh impossible for the UK to meet its 2050 emissions target (even the UK chooses to abandon the EU’s 2030 renewable energy target of 32% after Brexit) without the interconnectors transmitting power generated by renewables, albeit intermittently.
Renewing future energy trade
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal on future energy trading agreements, all EU rules in energy market regulations will cease to apply in the UK. This means that the UK-based operators can no longer benefit from the current tariff-free electricity imports from the EU. The imposition of tariffs on (renewable) electricity imports will certainly result in energy price hikes for British consumers post-Brexit.
The uncertainties around the Withdrawal Agreement may have already propelled an average increase of household energy bills by £75 since the referendum. A no-deal Brexit would add a further £61 per year on average to such bills. Meanwhile, inadequate private investment, owing to policy uncertainty, is blighting the future prospects for traditional, high-capital renewable energy projects in the UK.
Sovereignty and blockchain
To ensure greater ‘energy sovereignty’, or at least stabilise energy prices post-Brexit, it has not been more strategically important for the UK to further ‘decentralise’ its energy market. The initial barriers to developing a decentralised renewable energy market, including (1) reliability of (or trust among) neighbouring prosumers and (2) under-investment, could be addressed with the advent of blockchain technology.
It could take thousands of words to fully explain the technicality of blockchain. Yet, the shortest definition of blockchain is that it is a distributed ledger grouping transactions into blocks that are chain-linked chronologically. These blocks are verified and cannot be altered or removed without changing every transaction within them. This is called the ‘consensus algorithm’, which makes the blocks very secure and ensures that both traders and consumers are protected without third-party intermediaries.
The recipe for full energy market decentralisation lies in the amalgamation of blockchain and the Internet of Things (e.g. smart meters) with affordable renewable energy production (e.g. rooftop solar panels) and storage equipment (e.g. batteries). Blockchain can help simplify the pricing structure and ascertain the renewables origin through peer-to-peer (P2P) trading in a community microgrid.
Goin’ back to Brooklyn
The world’s first blockchain-supported microgrid is the Brooklyn Microgrid created in 2016 by LO3 Energy, in which a member of the Renewable Energy Working Group of the Blockchain & Climate Institute, Molly Webb, is involved. The Brooklyn Microgrid enables residents to reliably sell excess energy to their neighbours by taking advantage of blockchain, especially ‘smart contracts’. These programs are essentially self-executing and facilitate the exchange of anything of value. They automate P2P energy trading by providing an automated marketplace where neighbours can bid among each other to purchase renewable energy. LO3 Energy pushed the concept further with its Exergy Project dedicated to fundamental data sharing and permissioning with other market players such as solar PV installers. This permits many more new energy services become possible. In the UK, LO3 teamed up with Centrica for a trial of the Brooklyn Microgrid model in Cornwall last April.
Cryptocurrency is an important tool to scale up the decentralisation movement. An example is NRGcoin created by Enervalis in Europe and in which Dr Mihail Mihaylov, another member of the BCI’s Renewable Energy Working Group, is deeply involved. NRGcoin aims partly to address the blind spots of net-metering and feed-in tariff systems, which actually reward excessive production of green energy in a neighbourhood. It is ultimately a decentralised mechanism based on smart contracts with multiple stakeholders, including the utilities, grid operators, distributed system operators, utilities and of course, buyers and sellers of energy.
The devil is in the details
That said, it will still be the details of the energy chapter of the final Withdrawal Agreement from the EU that determine the necessity of rapid energy market decentralisation in the UK. The application of blockchain has undeniably limited capacity to influence the ongoing Brexit negotiations. It can only make a hard Brexit softer for the UK energy market if British prosumers are willing to join the blockchain movement.
WATCH: A FinTech Lawyer Breaks Down Libra’s Legality
Joel Telpner, Chair of Fintech and Blockchain Practice Group at Sullivan & Worcester LLP, isn’t surprised that Facebook is getting a grilling on Capitol Hill. In fact, he’s pleased.
“These are attacks on Facebook itself that really has nothing to do with crypto has nothing to with Libra it’s just Facebook being bad boys you know [they’re] concerned about [their] privacy policies,” he said.
His point, quite simply, is that any scrutiny of crypto in DC is vital.
“Parts of the hearing so far where they’ve actually been able to get into conversations about Libra and about crypto have been interesting because on that side of it you’ve seen some Senators that have been skeptical,” he said. “But overall it’s kind of it’s been encouraging to hear some of the senators talking about ‘Hey, this is a good thing.’”
Telpner joined CoinDesk editor Pete Rizzo in a wide-ranging conversation about the legality of Libra and, in the end, what Facebook and the Government will have to do to come to terms with the future of crypto.
You can read our complete Libra coverage here and watch our CoinDesk LIVE interviews here.
Freedom over Facebook: How the social media giant could wield the most powerful censorship tool in history
Blockchain has been the buzzword in the tech industry for the past few years since Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have surpassed other assets in terms of value. Bitcoin seems to satisfy one use case and sticks to it while other projects have forked, built and innovated on Bitcoin’s core promise of a decentralized, trust-less environment of immutable transactions. Notably, Ethereum opened up a world of decentralized applications or DApps that are being customized, designed and implemented to suit various use cases in different industries.
These distributed apps have one thing in common, they enable industry collaboration through transparency and security. One of the sectors that have been the focus of tech startups for a long time is the healthcare sector. Not only is it a critical sector but it also involves numerous stakeholders and actors coming together for the well-being of patients. Hospitals, different doctors, specialists, healthcare professionals, insurance companies, medical record maintainers, pathology labs and numerous other specialized service providers need to work in tandem for a seamless experience for a patient.
This creates a challenge for every service provider since they need to deal with data at a micro level but still need to have an overview of patient’s data that may be stored with some other entity. For example, an insurance provider will provide one specific service but they might need data about the patient’s health from the pathology lab, an opinion from the patient’s doctor, their expense report from the hospital, etc.
This data is usually hosted either on paper or on an individual business server. The industry has strict rules about privacy and the sharing of this data. The information held by these professionals is absolutely personal to the patient and hence utmost care is required to protect it.
The HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act] provides strict guidelines about managing and protection of this information.
This creates difficulties and bureaucratic procedures for the transfer of patient’s data and has given rise to a host of tech startups aiming to create a repository of centralized Electronic Medical Records [EMR] data. What EMRs would do is store all the information related to a patient’s healthcare in one place and provide specific access to different stakeholders as and when authorized by the patient.
But this creates a challenge in itself because the patient should be able to trust this one entity with all their data. It creates a single point of weakness that can be exploited, thereby rendering all the information vulnerable to attack.
With the advent of blockchain, this problem can be solved. Blockchain provides an encrypted way of storing a patient’s information in a distributed database that can only be accessed by the patient’s authentication. Blockchain enables different stakeholders to write information to this database that runs on various “nodes” and each transaction is validated by a set of miners that solve mathematical algorithmic puzzles to ensure authenticity and trustworthiness of a node.
A hospital could upload the data about the patient’s treatment, the pathology lab could upload their medical records and only the patient could access these with the key. The selected list from these records could be sent to the insurance provider. The insurance provider could write data once their process is done. This creates a safe environment for every service provider to store, read and write data. This would not be possible without Blockchain’s pseudonymous encrypted data storage abilities.
Blockchain companies like Duality Solutions have come up with solutions like Blockchain as a Service [BaaS] where they take care of complete setup and maintenance of a blockchain setup for healthcare providers. Duality has a bouquet of solutions that take care of all back-end tasks such as setting up the servers, node setups, security, configurations, and maintenance.
Blockchain is said to be as revolutionary as the internet. Healthcare has been pegged to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of this revolution. EMR is one critical use case. Technology will make it simpler and seamless for all the service professionals and the patient.
Pundi X Launches Africa’s First Blockchain Smartphone
While at the GSMA Mobile 360 Africa event on July 16, 2019, Pundi X, a distributed ledger technology (DLT) startup launched XPhone, a blockchain-based smartphone in Kigali, Rwanda. XPhone is the first blockchain-powered smartphone to be unveiled in Africa, reportsNewtimes on July 17, 2019.
First Blockchain-based Smartphone to be Launched in Africa
Per the report, Pundi X has released XPhone, the first blockchain-based smartphone launched in Africa. The XPhone can make calls, text, take photos and surf the net amongst other things with the help of the distributed ledger technology.
As a result, it bypasses local service providers in Rwanda such as MTN and it is decentralized in nature without any third parties involved in its transmission, ensuring that the user’s data remains private.
XPhone also differs from other smartphone devices because it is neither powered by Android, iOS, nor Windows Operating systems, but the Function X (FX) OS which is based on blockchain technology. The smartphone allows for a seamless transition between traditional Android to blockchain mode..
Pundi X to Release 5,000 XPhones in Late 2019
Notably, the Pundi X team has revealed its intention to release 5,000 XPhones in late 2019 and that it is looking for telecommunication companies to partner with in order to launch more of these devices.
The blockchain company had recently completed integration support on its XPOS module on Verifone’s X990 in a bid to enable retail outlets to process crypto payments as well as fiat transactions.
Nonetheless, there are regulatory concerns in the Rwanda which may negatively impact on the adoption of its new blockchain phone. Rwanda citizens may also be adamant about adopting the devices due to the sceptical nature people have about complex technologies.
It is, however, remarkable to see an increasing rise in the launch of blockchain smartphones in 2019, even though they are powered with their respective operating systems.
Electroneum, a blockchain company on February 25, 2019, launched a low-cost blockchain smartphone which features the company’s cloud mining technology and mobile crypto mining app to enable users to earn its ETN native token.
In the same vein, technology company Sirin Labs which launched its Finney blockchain smartphone in 2018 announced on March 21, 2019, that it will be integrating MyEtherWallet into the phone. BTCManager on April 29, 2019, also informed that the electronics giant HTC is planning the launch of a second-generation blockchain-based smartphone by the second quarter of the year.