Blockchain can help you understand where your gas and electricity comes from

The energy market is to get a clearer view of how companies buy gas and electricity thanks to blockchain technology.

Utilidex, an online platform for the energy sector, is extending its online hub to allow retailers and generators to keep track of the creation, sale and use of their energy. The company is developing a secure and easy-to-understand database of transactions in wholesale markets. It will run on Microsoft Azure.

Energy companies buy gas and electricity from generators on retail markets before selling it to households. However, the sector is becoming increasingly complex, with 14 new suppliers entering the domestic market last year, according to regulator Ofgem. These companies have a range of aims – from not-for-profit to renewable.

How does Blockchain work? (credit: PwC)
How does Blockchain work? (credit: PwC)

Markets have also suffered from increased volatility, while generation trends have shifted significantly towards renewable sources such as solar power.

Amid this turbulence, Ofgem found that more than one in five consumers in the UK have become “very disengaged” with the energy market.

Blockchain is a database of transactions that can be added to but not modified, making it very secure; while each entry, or block, is linked to the previous one, building an audit trail. It is historically known as a core part of the digital currency bitcoin but can be used for any transaction, so has the potential to revolutionise the energy sector.

“This work is part of our broader ambitions to help customers buy, sell and optimise their energy in a very different way,” said Richard Brys, Chief Executive of Utilidex. “I think most people are now aware of the changing dynamics of the market, and increasing value in energy flexibility. It’s our ambition to deliver a platform that helps customers manage and capture this value in their estate, in an open, transparent way.”

Utilidex’s blockchain technology will let users analyse data on plants, makes billing easier, shows real-time market data, predicts energy production and features a personal digital assistant that offers instant alerts, among other features.

Its solutions use many Azure features, such as managed application hosting via App Service and data storage via Azure SQL Database.

Ofgem found that more than one in five consumers in the UK have become 'very disengaged' with the energy market
Ofgem found that more than one in five consumers in the UK have become ‘very disengaged’ with the energy market

Liam Kelly, General Manager of Developer Experience at Microsoft UK, said: “Microsoft is always looking for ways to enable transformative technology. Our partnership with Utilidex to investigate Blockchain is a great example of how we work closely with companies to unlock incredible future innovation. Our Azure platform provides the solid and flexible foundation to build the intelligent cloud for everyone. We look forward to seeing Utilidex develop their solution on Azure, which is a platform for every industry.”

Microsoft spelled out its vision for the future of blockchain at an event in London earlier this year. The company told the Blockchain Expo in February that the cloud is the best way to use the technology and it is working on an ecosystem to support it, codenamed Project Bletchley. The platform aims to provide openness, privacy, security, scale, flexibility and members-only blockchains.

Microsoft Azure regions
Microsoft Azure regions

Project Bletchley is “blockchain 3.0 while most people are in blockchain 2.0″, Microsoft Cloud Architect Thomas Conte said at the conference. He pointed to Microsoft’s use of “cryptlets” – secure software that interacts with the blockchain – in its development of a trusted marketplace for smart contracts, which no one can alter after deployment, and Azure Key Vault, which allows people to encrypt passwords.

Microsoft was a key partner for the Blockchain Expo, which featured more than 60 industry figures and more than 20 sessions on the technology.

In March, Azure became the first public cloud to enable multi-member blockchain networks for companies that need private networks. Microsoft also supports HyperLedger Fabric, R3 Corda, Quorum, Chain Core and BlockApps.