Distributed Energy Resources

Arizona regulators eye use of blockchain in energy sector

The Arizona Corporation Commission on July 16 opened a docket at the request of Commissioner Andy Tobin to investigate the potential for blockchain technology in the state’s energy sector.

It will be the first time a U.S. regulatory commission looks into the potential for using blockchain in the energy sector, Nick Debus, a spokesman for the commission, said.

“Arizona’s Governor, Attorney General, and Legislature have already been leading the country on blockchain policy, and I think Arizona’s energy industry should do the same,” said Tobin said in a statement.

On April 3, Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed into law a bill that allows Arizona corporations to hold and share data on a blockchain. That bill was preceded by a law enacted last year that recognized signatures recorded on a blockchain and smart contracts as legal documentation.

Blockchain is often associated with the cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, but the technologies are not synonymous. Blockchain is a digital ledger or distributed ledger that keeps track of transactions without a central database. The technology stores transaction details in blocks, or discrete packets of digital information, that cannot be altered.

The low cost and security of recording transactions using blockchain is gaining ground in a variety of industries, including law, oil and gas, and healthcare. Walmart has applied for a patent for a way to use blockchain and cryptocurrencies to manage demand on the grid.

Arizona’s blockchain docket, AU-00000A-18-0261, grew out of Tobin’s work on the Arizona Energy Modernization Plan, which aims to pave the way for the state to meet an 80% clean energy standard by 2050.

In the coming weeks, the ACC will be setting up workshops and meeting to move the blockchain investigation forward. “The call is out for interested parties to bring their ideas,” Debus said.

Tobin recently filed an update on the timeline for the Energy Modernization Plan, indicating that it would be discussed at a July 19 open meeting. One of the key topics of discussion will be cost savings. Clean energy advocates say the modernization plan could save as much as $542 million by 2032.