James Eggelston, a Fremantle boy, flies around the world about twice a month. That’s a big carbon footprint. A footprint he’s aware of, but one he hopes to make up for.
James is on a mission to de-carbonise the world. He speaks quickly and excitedly about a decentralised renewable energy future. He’ll chew the ear off anyone who’ll listen, from the Prime Minister of Thailand to diehard coal power plant enthusiasts.
He wants everyone to become what he calls ‘prosumers’ of electricity. That’s a hybrid producer and consumer. But unlike the current process of selling your excess power back to a big centralised company like Synergy, James and his friends at Power Ledger believe people will want to use a digital wallet on their phone or computer and make money from the grid.
“Traditionally the way we monitor our electricity use is through a centralised database, born out of a physical meter reading system. Even now your meter is read by someone who physically reads the meter, and they enter that into a centralised list,” says James.
“Based on those readings invoices are sent out and payments are chased up. The problem with that approach is you’re bringing more problems to the person with solar panels and a battery because you’re paying for that service.”
The Power Ledger software takes a reading from your meter, calculates your surplus power, and then sells that power instantaneously to other people on your network. The network can be ten or ten million people, depending on the size of grid.
The trick is not merely decentralised electricity itself, but the ledger that automates the payments is decentralised and digital as well, by using a public blockchain.
“The promise of blockchain is an automated digitised system in the same way telephone calls were once run through an operator, but now they’re run through a digital protocol,” James tells me. “Blockchain allows us to send value digitally without a go-between like bank or a broker.”
With a more efficient network, the savings go to the prosumers. It’s this aspect that motivates James the most, because the implications are monumental.
“If you are one of the one and half billion people in the world without electricity, already we are seeing single solar panels on houses, and most people have a mobile phone,” James tells me, checking his phone for a message.
“By slinging an extension cable between the panels, Power Ledger’s software can automatically manage those transactions.”
It’s here that the democratisation of Power Ledger’s vision becomes apparent. People can chip in ten dollars each to set up a micro-grid.
In W.A., the software is being used in a Lifestyle Village in Busselton, the new development in White Gum Valley and is soon to rolled out in the centre of Fremantle as part of the Smart Cities project.
James will interrupt his hectic flight schedule to be one of the key speakers at this years inaugural Tedx Fremantle, to be held on the 16th of September at the Drill Hall Notre Dame.