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Distributed Energy Resources

SMUD official details electric vehicle blockchain project

A Sacramento Municipal Utility District project that is being funded in part through an award from the American Public Power Association’s Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Development program will utilize blockchain-enabled tokens as part of an effort to encourage EV owners to charge their vehicles at workplaces when local renewables peak during the day.

Denver Hinds, R&D project manager for smart energy technologies at California public power utility SMUD, provided an overview of the project at Greentech Media’s “Blockchain in Energy Forum 2019” in New York City.

He appeared on a panel that looked at blockchain as an integration platform for EVs, solar DERs and wholesale prices. Hinds was joined on the panel by Killian Tobin, CEO of Omega Grid and Juliette Chatel, smart grid analyst at EDF Innovation Lab. Omega Grid and EDF Innovation Lab are working with SMUD on the blockchain project.

Hinds noted that the natural tendency of customers is to plug in an EV as soon as they arrive at any charger, typically their home.

What the SMUD project is aiming to do in its initial stage is incentivize customers to not take a charge immediately upon arrival at their workplace. Instead, the idea is to encourage customers to allow the charger to wait until renewables are peaking locally on a given day to charge at a discounted rate than they would otherwise have.

“We are going to be enrolling customers into this workplace charging program that will be aligning incentive signals with local renewable production and offering them rebates or credits on charging that they can accumulate as blockchain-enabled tokens,” he said. 

SMUD is looking at giving them two means by which to redeem those tokens – either cash them out or to try and amplify those values through local merchants that can partner with SMUD to enhance the benefits to that customer, Hinds went on to say.

The goal is to create a pilot program that pulls value from the customer side the utility, all the way out to the markets, Hinds said.

“We have to engage all of our business units – cybersecurity, energy trading contracts, energy procurement, our distribution operations, our distribution planning,” and customer programs, he said. “We’re trying to recognize all the benefits that we can roll into this program by engaging those stakeholders early and often in the program design.”

When asked what phase the project is in, Hinds said that “we’re going through design workshops right now. We’ve engaged our utility stakeholders to weigh in with their value streams that they want to contribute” to this incentive for mid-day charging.

After the workshops and the design phase, SMUD anticipates it will take about six months to go through detailed project planning by developing requirements, metrics and building out the system to make sure “it supports the customer interactions in terms of the use case and the customer experience that we want to facilitate,” Hinds said.

He noted that the way SMUD approaches investments it makes in both infrastructure and information systems is to first make sure “that we understand what’s in it for the customer and then design all the supporting infrastructure to make sure we’re delivering that value to them.”

With respect to customer outreach and engagement strategies on the EV blockchain project, Hinds said that “we don’t have this pilot nailed down yet in terms of enrollment and outreach.”

But he said that the utility will eventually be conducting educational efforts and part of that will probably be gauging interest in blockchain and distributed ledgers “and what that means to them, if anything. Does it scare them away? Does it entice them? Is it compelling or not? And in the end, make sure we’re delivering a simple, understandable experience for them.”

The project is being funded in part through a $97,000 award from the Association’s DEED program.

Omega Grid also worked on Burlington Electric Department blockchain project

in 2018, the Burlington Electric Department in Vermont won a grant from the DEED program to use blockchain technology to facilitate the integration and distribution of energy from multiple sources in real time. Omega Grid is also involved in this DEED-funded project.

Silicon Valley Power

Meanwhile, another California public power utility, Silicon Valley Power, and Power Ledger have successfully completed the first stage of a program to test the use of blockchain technology for tracking and monetizing carbon dioxide reduction credits for electric vehicle charging and now plan to proceed to the second phase of the project.

Last September, Silicon Valley Power used Power Ledger’s blockchain-backed platform to track and manage Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credits at the Tasman Drive parking garage in Santa Clara, Calif., which has a 370 kW solar system and 49 electric vehicle charging stations.