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The new energy economy? Peer-to-peer ‘free trade’ in energy

Current excess energy from renewables is, in most cases, handed back to the national grid. For this consumers may or may not be compensated, depending on the local arrangement. This could be about to change according to a feasibility review by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) (a British Research Council that provides government funding for grants to undertake research and postgraduate degrees in engineering and the physical sciences).

The study has been produced in relation to a rise in micro-generation, where households or businesses fit their own small scale, renewables-based energy generators to produce and use energy. Such technologies have increased in use as many countries seek to meet their carbon emissions targets and to decarbonise the economy.

Supported by the EPSRC, the University of Bristol is testing out options using a computer model to assess ‘free trade’ between micro-generators in a peer-to-peer energy market. This would be where two households or businesses elect to can directly buy or sell energy to each other, without the meed for third parties.

According to lead researcher Dr Ruzanna Chitchyan: “Perhaps you have installed some solar panels and you would much rather contribute your excess generation free of charge to the nearby homeless shelter instead of selling it back to the utility provider. Or sell it to someone else at a better price or give it to your neighbour.”

He explains further why the creation of energy needs to fit into a free market economic model: The households that produce the energy should have the power to decide on what to do with it. Similarly, consumers should be able to decide whose energy and at what price they want to buy.”

This would be possible, the researcher explains by developing a trading platform, something similar to what Airbnb in the accommodation industry or Uber is to taxi hire. How fast a new emery platform could be developed will depend on technical issues and factors like whether supply continuity can be maintained within the fluctuating emery generation in relation to some types of renewable energy sources.

Some research has already gone into looking at the feasibility of energy sharing platforms. The technology could also work with blockchain, where each transaction can be accurately recorded, verified and secured.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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