Our compass for the new world (more complex than ever) that is coming

09/12/2016 CC-BY-SA (International 4.0)
Light Energy, Thomas Quine [CC-BY 2.0]

From centralized energy to distributed power

So far, the easiest way to provide important amounts of energy to a big amount of people was to build giant power plants (coal, nuclear, gas, water…) with heavy infrastructures (big pipes that go through vast territories and more little pipes that go to homes). Such a system is based on low-cost and abundant non-renewable resources, as well as a limited number of operators, amongst which states that play a prominent role.

Given the increasing energy consumption, the (fast) resources depletion, climate change and the plummeting renewable energy costs, the system has started to (slowly ) evolve. In other words, a more decentralized organization based on diffused renewable resources is shaping the energy landscape, making it possible to decentralize the production while not increasing the complexity and cost of resources supply: (i) production points are more local and closer to consumption points (ii) local and renewable resources can be smartly and optimally harvest (iii) the global system is then a little bit more resilient to resource scarcity and systemic failures.

Nevertheless, local electricity producers (at the individual scale for instance) are usually not the owners of the produced good (electricity) since they are constrained by regulatory laws, making it compulsory either to sell the electricity “to the grid” (meaning mainly to another larger and authorized energy producer), or to consume directly the electricity (auto-consumption).

In this case, we see 4 major problems:

  • First, energy producers and grid operators do not know well (usually not at all) the real time consumption pattern at the micro-level. They do not have meaningful costumers’ energy consumption information that would help to real-time optimize the production/consumption balance. Producers are clearly disconnected to their consumers.

  • Second, in current systems, energy losses are huge (between 7 and 12% of the production) because of the electricity flowing— with “friction” - into the big pipes composing the national grid;

  • Third, the current systems do not take advantage of the full potential of local resources (solar, wind, water, earth heat...)

  • Last, users do not get real interaction with energy, making raising awareness on reducing energy consumption hard. The only relation you’ve got with your energy provider is, first the bill, second the switch. Consumers are then totally disconnected to the producers.

From those 4 statements, we think that there are 4 big issues levels:

  • The increasing complexity of the energy system and organization;

  • The cost of a trusted 3rd party (first, the one enabling distribution);

  • The complexity and inconsistency of the regional regulatory contexts;

  • The users side: how to get people involved in energy governance ?

SO WHAT? In a nutshell: we think that the timing and context are pretty good to kick-off an initiative in which the core value is to empower as many people as possible in the understanding of the *complexity* of energy.

Towards shared governance in energy sector

Our playground is the field of distributed energy systems organization. Like the internets, we strongly believe that distributed energy systems will help to develop distrisbuted autonomous energy organizations, thus providing strong and resilient answers to the here-above mentioned challenges.

Such a playground gives us the following basic rules to play:

  • Energy is the basis of all. In short, without energy you die. Besides, as you may know, energy is a matter of national security.

  • Distribution is not more a matter of technology than politics or sociology. It’s much about (complex) governance and organization.

  • Systems and organization, form a biological/life science point of view, are built in strongly trans-disciplinary contexts. We took the side of the anti-disciplinary context instead (special tribute to Joi Ito).

  • Autonomy is not about autarky. It’s about inter-dependency between peers sharing resources that enables each party to be sustainable and self(with-trusted-others)sufficiency.

  • Many Internets instead of ‘one’ Internet thus making hybridization, interoperability and modular design at the center of the work.

What are the main challenges to tackle ?

1- Secure energy data

We could access to meaningful and secured energy consumption and production data with monitoring systems like Open Energy Monitor with embedded installed Ethereum (light) clients to record energy flows on a distributed ledger (“blockchain”). This gives the opportunity to secure and validate data, and to access “pseudonymous” consumption and production energy data to facilitate peer-to-peer transactions.

2- Reduce energy losses

Relying on peer-to-peer energy transactions through micro-grid at the local level makes it possible to significantly reduce energy losses in the grid since electricity does not have to” cross the country” to reach the consumption point.

3- Create “short circuits”

Locally distributed energy systems that are interconnected one to another make it possible to take full advantage of diffuse local resources (sun, wind, hydro, electro-chemical electricity production — from plants and bacteria…) while strengthening the resilience of the system, since what’s produced locally is locally consumed. It also enable not to have a few single points of failure in the system.

4- Open energy governance

Consumers are part of the equation, if not the central and main stakeholder while talking about energy. A distributed system makes it possible to switch from pure consumer to “prosumers”, giving a way for people to be involved in energy governance. Not only this helps to tackle on-ground needs but also to make energy a palpable good.

What’s the long term mission for DAISEE?

Our long-term mission is to build the “Internets of Energy” as the basic infrastructure for making energy a common with people committed to empower and be empowered. In practice, our goal is to design and deploy open-source secured distributed autonomous energy infrastructure systems, from production and consumption monitoring to distributed physical and data infrastructure. One of the objectives is to make the conditions favorable for both energy appropriation and peer-to-peer based energy management.

There are 3 packages in the master plan:

  • Energy monitoring: how to securely monitor energy consumption / production on a system based on open-source technologies ? (#hardware)

  • Machine dialogue: how to make objects take consensual decisions while dealing energy-token between them about who’s consuming what-when-how they contribute to energy consumption reduction ? (#software)

  • Trusted transactions: how to make it possible to make peer-to-peer energy transactions at the district / town / territory level? (#infrastructure and #governance)

Excited? Looking forwards to chat, share ideas and experiment together! :-)