UCL Energy Institute



The Internet of Energy Things: Supporting peer-to-peer energy trading and demand side management through blockchains.

IoET - P2P

21 May 2018

The rapid rise of local and community based renewable energy generation, combined with the rollout of smart meters, breakthroughs in IT, and electricity grid congestion is bringing about radically new collaborative economy business models in energy. In response, people are beginning to trade energy locally. Distributed ledger (blockchain) technologies are used to authenticate and track ownership of energy production, consumption, and demand-side response ensuring each unit of energy is securely and transparently accounted for. This project will help lay the groundwork for such systems in the UK – analysing the regulatory, security, engineering and societal requirements for their acceptability.

Aims and objectives

The project aim is to lay the groundwork for a substantial demonstration project of blockchain enabled peer-to-peer community energy trading and demand side management in the UK.

The objectives are as follows:

  • Assess the potential policy, regulatory, and business pathways to deployment; 
  • Conduct a nationally representative survey-experiment assessing the effect of different designs on consumer acceptability;
  • Produce a physical model including loads, generators, storage, SMETS II smart meters, and consumer access devices to both assess technical challenges, and to produce an interactive demonstrator for stakeholder engagement;
  • Produce a business case, consortium, and project plan for a GB blockchain demonstrator, including evaluation of requirements for derogation of Distribution System Operator license conditions necessary to implement such a demonstrator. 
Research approach

Target outcomes:

  • roadmap study of potential policy and regulatory pathways for the establishment of blockchain enabled peer-to-peer community energy trading in Great Britain. This will provide a consensus view on the scope for application of blockchain technologies within distributed energy systems. Adopting a consensus approach, the intention is to provide a framework around which the energy industry players can converge.
  • Conducting, and reporting on, a national scale survey experiment testing social acceptability under different designs of peer-to-peer, blockchain enabled electricity trading in communities. This will provide the evidence to both government and industry on the social acceptability of these technologies and how acceptability varies as a function of how the consumer proposition is designed.
  • Perspective style journal article on the scope for blockchain applications in energy, providing a benchmark paper laying out the academic opportunities and challenges in this field.
  • The construction and demonstration at engagement events of a physical model of a blockchain enabled peer-to-peer energy trading system. This will test the technically feasibility of interfacing blockchain software through SMETS II smart meters, as well as allow stakeholders to physically interact and learn about the technology in a hands-on way.
  • Reports, presentations and papers from an international academic symposium on blockchain applications in energy, bringing together the small and currently very disparate academy community to build support and strength in this field.

The roadmap study on regulatory and policy pathways will be the result of literature reviewing, holding deliberative workshops, and engaging with stakeholders in both government and industry. Deliberative workshops are similar to focus groups, but allow for more detailed advance briefing and generally a longer period for discussion. They permit similar insights to individual interviews but in a shorter space of time, and with the added advantage of permitting participants to reflect on and discuss others’ views – while also allowing multiple project team members to observe and/or contribute. 

The national survey-experiment will be an online randomised controlled trial. Participants will be randomly allocated to treatment groups and shown different designs of mock commercial offerings of peer-to-peer community energy trading and DSM. Participants will be asked to state how willing they would be to switch to such a system, their general attitude towards the offerings; their usefulness to them; ease of use; and level of control over issues such as control and cost. The team has considerable experience conducting such survey experiments (e.g. ‘Consumers and Time of Use Tariffs’ report.)

physical model of a blockchain enabled community-based energy system supporting both peer-to-peer trading and DSM will be produced. The model will include switchable resistive loads (incandescent globes); generators (photovoltaics, dynamos); SMETS II compliant smart meters and consumer access devices; storage (batteries); and a network net-metering point. Real-time external signals regarding current and forecast renewable generation capacity and network constraints will be fed into the system - along with data on the half-hourly close price for electricity on the settlement system. These will be used as external physical and financial constraints to trigger different forms of demand response and energy trading.

IOET - P2P diagram