Improving the Power Grid with Blockchain

April 9, 2020
OSIsoft and Artemis Energy Services combine technologies to create a distributed ledger technology for tracking, tracing, and trading energy while optimizing the electric grid.

Blockchain has been making big news in the industrial automation sector over the past few years for its potential to address critical issues ranging from the industrial supply chain and food and pharmaceutical safety to OEM-to-manufacturer contract management. Now the distributed ledger technology is being used to optimize the power grid.

Artemis Energy Services and OSIsoft recently announced a partnership to securely track, trace, and trade energy while optimizing the electric grid. According to the two companies, this partnership is based on using Artemis Energy Services’ blockchain technology to interact with real-time data provided by OSIsoft’s PI System software (which collects, analyzes, visualizes, and shares high-fidelity, time-series data from multiple industrial sources). This combination of technologies is expected to lead to “a field-proven 20% increase in overall grid efficiency and utilization,” according to a statement from the two companies. “This efficiency gain will reduce the need for new fossil-based energy sources and utility grid system upgrades. [This combination of technologies] “will create an entirely new marketplace that has the capability to serve both a single individual as well as the complex regulatory and operational authorities that govern and manage” energy markets.

Addressing the transformational potential of the blockchain technology from Artemis in the energy sector, Richard Beeson, CTO of OSIsoft, said, “The energy-focused platform that Artemis is leveraging went live in July of 2019 [and it] is a purpose-built application for this specific segment of the industry. The electric grid has been called the most complex machine man has ever built.  As such, the requirements for this application are significant and the work we are doing now with the data, operations, transactions, and services segments will help define a new future for a grid that has historically operated in a unidirectional flow into one that can be bi-directional and also recognize single phase operation of assets. These are dramatic shifts for this industry, and these new technologies presented by our consortium of companies are the first to be able to effectively enable this future.”

Amanda Martinez, CEO of Artemis, explained that the Artemis Transaction Engine is able to transact directly with the real-time information that the OSIsoft PI system manages and create real-time transaction tags to be included in the chain. “This allows dynamic operation, real-time settlement, and 100% transparency with the grid operators and regulators,” she said.

Asked how the Artemis Transaction Engine differs from standard blockchain technologies, given the complexities of the energy grid, Martinez noted that Artemis was “founded by energy experts who have spent their entire careers helping shape this industry. This (the Artemis Transaction Engine) is an application built by and for the energy industry, not by a software company looking to leverage a market facing extreme pressure to innovate and modernize. Other blockchain applications [were first developed as] a solution based on a particular industry segment, market, or structure, [leading the developers to] go in search of the data and customers to enable the solution they have built. Artemis purpose built our application around the data and fundamental physics of [grid] operation. Therefore, regardless of the continent, country, or market construct, this purpose-built application can be immediately implemented.”

With regard to the “20% increase in overall grid efficiency and utilization" cited in the two companies’ release about their partnership, Besson explained that electric networks are designed and operated based on a cascading set of worst-case assumptions. For example, operating on the hottest day possible in a 20-year planning horizon with the heaviest load and with the loss of their single biggest resource. By considering distributed energy resources (DER) as part of the solution instead of the problem, a utility can make use of these resources at the edge of the grid and increase the average amount of electricity flowing in the existing network year-round. So instead of the system being utilized at 43% on average like it is today around the world, we can help that number move above 60%—or even higher—for areas with large-scale DER penetration. Our application helps recognize all of the values of DER, not just a few of them, and this allows for grid services, utilization, efficiency, and a plethora of other benefits to be realized.”

Other technologies playing a part in this consortium include software from PXiSE Energy Solutions and DERNetSoft. “As you can imagine, the data required for every facet of this solution needs to be in place to allow any of the additional segments to be effective,” said Beeson. “The purpose of our consortium is to provide each of the necessary elements with what we feel are the best-in-class providers, so that a network provider has a fully capable end-to-end solution for a proof-of-concept deployment.”

Beeson added that refinements to the transaction engine are being made by Artemis now, based on work with network providers and industry experts, with deployment of the combined technologies expected to take place in the second half of 2020.

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