May 18, 2022 • 1HR 11M

Volts podcast: Jesse Morris on building an operating system for distributed energy

Yes, blockchain is involved.

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David Roberts
Volts is a podcast about leaving fossil fuels behind. I've been reporting on and explaining clean-energy topics for almost 20 years, and I love talking to politicians, analysts, innovators, and activists about the latest progress in the world's most important fight. (Volts is entirely subscriber-supported. Sign up!)
Episode details

Recent years have seen an explosive rise in distributed energy resources (DERs) — energy devices that are located “behind the meter,” on the customer side, like solar panels, batteries, electric vehicles (EVs), and smart appliances.

Distributed energy has the potential to change the grid for the better, making it cleaner and more resilient, but as things stand, there’s a problem.

Consider an EV. The customer has a relationship to it, a way to see its capacity and behavior; it wants to operate the EV in a way that best serves their own transportation needs. The aggregator — an entity that gathers DERs and treats them as a single entity, to sell their services — has a different relationship with the EV; it wants to operate the EV to meet contractual requirements. The distribution utility has a different relationship; it wants to operate the EV to maintain grid stability. And the market manager (ISO) has yet a different relationship; it wants to operate the EV in the way that best serves the market.

All these entities want different things from the EV, but they’ve all built bespoke systems to track it — systems that do not communicate with one another. Consequently, most DERs are wildly underutilized.

This can not last. Confusion and crossed wires will only grow with distributed energy. What the world needs is a common, transparent, trusted way to track DERs, their capacity and interaction with the grid.

Jesse Morris Energy Web)

That is what Energy Web, an international nonprofit, aims to provide: “an operating system for DERs” that will assign each DER a record on the blockchain (yes, the blockchain), allowing all interested entities to have a common source of information and tracking.

I am a bit of a skeptic of toward blockchain hype, but this seems like an excellent use of it, which could unlock a much more sophisticated and resilient grid. I’m eager to talk to Energy Web CEO Jesse Morris about what the product is, how it can help DERs, and where we might see it adopted next.