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Major South Korean City to Build Blockchain-Enabled Virtual Power Plant

South Korea’s government will spend $3.5 million to set up a blockchain-enabled virtual power plant in the city of Busan.

South Korea’s government will spend 4 billion Korean won (KRW) (about $3.5 million) to set up a blockchain-enabled virtual power plant (VPP) in the city of Busan. The development was reported by South Korean newspaper Yonhap News Agency on Monday, Dec. 10.

Busan, South Korea’s second most populous city after Seoul, has announced that the city administration has selected a project to support an innovative energy industry in the region by building a VPP based on a citizens-shared blockchain.

The project will be reportedly represented at the national competition in 2019 hosted by the largest electric utility in South Korea, Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO).

By its definition, a virtual power plant is a cloud-based distributed power plant that integrates the idle capacities of multiple energy resources in order to optimize power generation.

The recently announced blockchain-powered VPP project is set to aggregate such power sources as Busan area factories and public facilities of energy storage system (ESS), as well as solar power plants.

The project was reportedly proposed by the city of Busan, as well as major local companies and institutions including Pusan National University (PNU), energy management firm Nuri Telecom, Busan City Gas and real estate firm Korea Industrial Complex Corporation.

The city of Busan has already been actively developing and promoting blockchain technology, according to Korean crypto-focused news agency TokenPost.

Earlier this year, Yoo Jae-soo, the Minister of Economic Affairs in Busan and former director general for financial policy at the Financial Services Commission (FSC), reportedly held a meeting to discuss the establishment of a special zone in the city in order to build a friendly environment for the development of the blockchain and crypto industry.

In June of this year, South Korean governmental agency, Industry-SW ICT Convergence Association (WICA), also revealed plans to establish a blockchain center in Busan modeled on Switzerland’s Crypto Valley. According to the plan, the South Korean version of Zug’s Crypto Valley is set to be located at Haeundae, an affluent and touristic beachfront space in eastern Busan.

Earlier today, the country’s second-biggest commercial bank, Shinhan Bank, launched a blockchain-based initiative within the internal processes of the institution in order to reduce the number of human errors in record keeping.

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Austrian Blockchain Center for Multidisciplinary Research Established in Vienna

The Austrian Blockchain Center has been established in the city of Vienna, where it will collaborate with local academics in multidisciplinary research.

The COMET Centers, which are coordinated by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), have approved the Austrian Blockchain Center (ABC) in Vienna, according to a Nov. 29 press release.

ABC involves 21 scientific institutions, 54 companies, 17 associated participants, and 16 international institutions and companies. According to the release, the research center will be multidisciplinary and focus on Internet of Things (IoT), finance, energy, logistics, and applications in public administration.

Alfred Taudes, academic director and coordinator of the center, and head of the Research Institute for Cryptoeconomics at WU Vienna University of Economics and Business, said that a multidisciplinary approach is “necessary for comprehensive research.”

The center will conduct research and development in five different areas; cryptography technology and security; cryptoeconomic modelling and blockchain applications for business; emerging industries and blockchains in manufacturing; data science methods for blockchain analytics and predictions; and legal and political implications.

The new research center will purportedly work in tandem with other COMET Centers and international blockchain initiatives. The centers are funded by the Austrian Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology, and the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs. ABC will also receiving support from the provinces of Lower Austria and Vorarlberg.

The Austrian government has been proactive in its support for blockchain initiatives and development of the technology. In September, the government set to offer a $1.35 billion bond on the Ethereum blockchain. At the time, Austria’s Finance Minister, Hartwig Loeger, said that the ministry is considering blockchain tech as it forms a “focus on economic policy.”

Earlier this month, the Austrian government supported a U.K. cancer research company that uses blockchain in its work. Lancor Scientific, which has developed a device to detect multiple types of cancer, records screening results with smart contracts on a blockchain. The firm plans to open a research laboratory in the Austrian city of Graz.

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Energy Firm ENGIE Partners With Consulting Firm to Create Blockchain Software Offering

French energy group ENGIE has teamed up with consulting firm Maltem to establish a blockchain software offering geared toward commercial clients.

French electric utility company ENGIE and consulting firm Maltem Consulting Group have jointly established a blockchain development firm designed for commercial customers, according to a press release published September 7.

The new project called Blockchain Studio received seed funding totalling €1.9 million (around $2.1 million). Blockchain Studio has created a software suite for commercial enterprises comprised of two fundamental tools. One tool is focused on the development of smart contracts and enables its application by users without technical background. The other tool manages the creation of cloud-based or server-based blockchain infrastructure.

According to the announcement, the company is planning to roll out its services primarily on the Asian market at the beginning of 2019, with an office in Singapore. By the end of the first financial semester of next year, Blockchain Studio will also open operations in Southern Europe.

Yves Le Gélard, ENGIE’s Executive Vice-President and Chief Digital Officer expressed enthusiasm towards the new project:

“We are very pleased to be contributing to this development, which should allow Blockchain technology to be made accessible to many actors. It is an excellent example of an innovative tool contributing to ENGIE’s digital transformation.”

ENGIE has previously explored blockchain applications in its energy business. In July, the corporate research center of the ENGIE Group, ENGIE Lab CRIGEN, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the IOTA Foundation. The collaboration is focused on the exploration of and experimentation with IOTA Tangle technology in the energy sector.

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U.S. Senate Hearing: ‘Valuable’ Potential Applications of Blockchain in Energy Sector Exist

The U.S. Senate has held a hearing on the energy efficiency of blockchain and similar technologies, according to an announcement published August 21.

The hearing on energy and natural resources, held by the U.S. Senate Committee in Washington, DC, focused on the application of blockchain and related technologies, as well as the cybersecurity possibilities of using such technologies in the energy industry.

In particular, the committee considered the issue of the possible increase in electricity prices following the rising power demand in blockchain applications. The hearing also touched on the

methods of evaluating whether blockchain can improve the cybersecurity of the computing systems used to supply energy.

Among the speakers, Thomas A. Golden, program manager at Electric Power Research Institute (ERPI), reported that the institute’s research on blockchain and its capabilities led to several pilots that have demonstrated potential promise in the deployment of blockchain to enable transactive energy.

ERPI established a Utility Blockchain Interest Group (UBIG) consisting of almost 40 energy companies in order to raise awareness and provide information about the technology. Additionally, the institute has launched the development of a blockchain-based energy market simulator.

Claire Henly, managing director at Energy Web Foundation, addressed the problem of the energy usage of Bitcoin and similar networks while also outlining that there are “valuable potential applications of blockchain in the energy sector.” As per Henly, blockchain can render energy markets more efficient and open, while there are still some critical issues that should be solved before blockchain can contribute to the energy sector at scale.

Arvind Narayanan, associate professor of computer science at Princeton University, contributed with his perspective on the potential draws of the new technology, arguing:

“A blockchain-based market might be more attractive than a centralized trading platform if market participants are averse to a single company controlling the platform. Other initiatives enable customers to directly trade electricity with each other in a ‘peer to peer’ fashion, for example, by buying and selling excess rooftop solar power. However, peer-to-peer trading still requires the cooperation of utilities who ultimately control the physical flow of electricity.”

Speaking about cybersecurity, Narayanan said that blockchain brings the potential benefits of tackling the risks to the cybersecurity of energy systems, pointing out that “policy makers should view it as one of several possible technical tools for addressing energy cybersecurity.”

At the end of July, the chairman of the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Christopher Giancarlo spoke about his agency’s interest in blockchain tech during another Congressional hearing, underlining the need for appropriate measures to be enabled that would allow the CFTC to consider blockchain tech implementation in the future.

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Researcher Challenges Bitcoin Mining Energy Consumption Alarmists, Says Debate ‘Oversimplified’

A clean energy expert has hit back against the common perception that high energy consumption is an “Achilles Heel” for Bitcoin (BTC), in an article published by The Conversation August 20.

Katrina Kelly, Strategy Manager at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy, says that we need to shift the debate around Bitcoin mining away from energy-intensivity and towards where that energy is produced and how it is generated:

“By talking specifically about … the consumption of energy alone..many fail to understand one of the most basic benefits of renewable energy systems. Electricity production can increase while still maintaining a minimal impact on the environment….Not all types of energy generation are equal in their impact on the environment, nor does the world uniformly rely on the same types of generation across states and markets.”

Recent research estimates that mining could account for 0.5 percent of global energy usage by 2018 – but Kelly argues that the sources, not the amount, of energy is ultimately what matters.

China –  a country that has long been a crypto mining superpower due to its cheap electricity supply – uses largely fossil-based sources, which Kelly notes is highly problematic: the country is already ratcheting up devastating levels of carbon emissions.

Iceland, on the other hand – an increasingly popular spot for BTC miners – relies on almost 100 percent renewable geothermal and hydropower energy sources. In this case, Kelly argues,  miners’ power demands are “nearly irrelevant” to the health of the environment. The US Pacific Northwest – which has abundant supplies of low-carbon energy sources – is another such case, according to Kelly.

While carbon-density and “dirty power” supplies are the crux of Kelly’s article, she also offers another perspective to contextualize the Bitcoin mining controversy: if mining consumed an estimated 30 terawatt hours in 2017, banking continues to consume an estimated 100 terawatts of power each year. “[Even] if Bitcoin technology were to mature by more than 100 times its current market size, it would still equal only 2 percent of all energy consumption.”

As a recent Cointelegraph analysis noted, some have argued that energy-intensive and profit-driven Bitcoin mining could inadvertently drive innovation to further develop clean energy sources. Google information security engineer Marc Bevand told CT that:

“Because miners are so sensitive to electricity prices, they are often a driver pushing utilities to further develop renewables which are now the cheapest source of energy…If the energy use of cryptocurrency miners continue[s] to increase, it will help decrease the costs of renewables for society at large (increased demand → increased R&D → increased capacity & higher efficiency → lower costs through economies of scale).”

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Energy Firm Discloses Major Crypto Losses Amid Blockchain Rebrand

An energy firm that is publicly traded in Hong Kong and chaired by a Chinese billionaire is planning to rebrand itself as a blockchain company despite having lost millions investing in cryptocurrencies.

Called Global Energy Resources International Group, the firm filed a proposal with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on Monday indicating it seeks to change its Chinese name to “Global Token Limited,” given its recent move into the crypto space.

Based on the filing, the firm has over the past several months launched cryptocurrency trading platforms based in Hong Kong, as well as making investments in crypto assets and blockchain technology solutions.

“As announced by the Company on 18 January 2018, the Board had resolved to re-allocate approximately HK$50.0 million ($6.3 million) of the unutilized net proceeds … to make investment in, among others, cryptocurrency,” the company wrote.

According to the interim financial report disclosed by the firm on Aug. 10, at the end of June, the firm invested a total of $2.4 million in cryptocurrency assets, which amid this year’s bear market, led to a near 50-percent loss of $1.02 million.

Global Energy Resources currently holds 2,135 ether and over 20 million XPA tokens, which are together worth around $1.2 million as of press time, according to data from CoinMarketCap and CoinDesk’s price index.

As stated in the Hong Kong filing, over the past several months, the energy firm has also launched a fiat-to-crypto exchange called TideBit and a crypto-to-crypto platform named TiDeal, which brought in some revenue.

However, in part due to the losses arising from cryptocurrency and related technology investments, the firm recorded an overall net loss of $6.3 million in the first half of the year, compared to just $573,277 in the same period last year.

Although Global Energy Resources is little known as a publicly traded firm, it is notably chaired by Chen Ping, a billionaire Chinese publisher who also owns the Sun TV, a satellite network based in Hong Kong.

According to the interim report, Chen owns 85 percent of the TideBit trading platform. TiDeal was also launched by Chen, according to the exchange’s website.

Obviously a fan of the technology, Chen said in an interview in May:

“Blockchain can solve any problem of the society in the future that involves interpersonal communication.”

Power cables image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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US Senate to Examine Energy Efficiency of Blockchain

The U.S. Senate is set to take another look at blockchain technology next week.

The Committee on Energy and Natural Resources will host a hearing on “Energy Efficiency of Blockchain and Similar Technologies” on August 21, in an effort to better understand how blockchain technology might impact electricity prices and what benefits it can provide, according to a public announcement.

“The purpose of the hearing is to consider the energy efficiency of blockchain and similar technologies and the cybersecurity possibilities of such technologies for energy industry applications,” the announcement said.

Specifically, it continued, the event will ask the question, “should we expect electricity prices to increase from rising electricity demand in blockchain applications?”

The effort also aims to evaluate whether blockchain and similar technologies might soon bring improvements in the online security of energy supply computer systems.

The event will be a full committee hearing, meaning, at least theoretically, all 23 members will be present.

While the announcement included the fact that there would be witnesses testifying, it did not detail who they would be.

This is the first time a Senate committee hearing has explicitly focused on blockchain’s potential role and affects within the energy industry. However, past hearings have covered areas ranging from regulating cryptocurrency startups and initial coin offerings to supply chain use cases.

Capitol Hill image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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Researchers Build Blockchain Electricity Exchange They Say Cuts Waste

Researchers from one of the top universities in China say they have developed a decentralized exchange, not for crypto assets, but for unused power

A patent application filed by team from China’s Fudan University in January and revealed on Friday sets out the workings of a blockchain-based electricity exchange that assigns power sellers and buyers as nodes on the network and allows them to securely trade unused electricity without a third-party intermediary.

Using the network, nodes can broadcast requests for sales or purchases, after which smart contracts will connect matching requests, based on data such as volume and price, and then trigger transactions – a mechanism similar to that of a decentralized crypto exchange.

The effort is a response to the growing supply of renewable energy in China, especially solar power generated by households, which is often generated in excess of demand in some regions.

The researchers write:

“Households then have no other choices but to let the unused solar power go to waste because they don’t have a direct way of exchanging electricity.”

To facilitate transactions over the decentralized network, a digital currency would be used between buyers and sellers, the patent application explained.

Although it’s not clear which digital asset(s) the platform might use, the system has so far been made to built on two blockchain systems, according to the Fudan team.

“This idea can be achieved in either a public, private or a consortium blockchain. And in this case, the system has been developed on IBM’s Hyperledger platform as well as the ethereum blockchain, to make electricity tradeable and shareable within a community,” the document states.

Read the full patent application below:

Fudan University Patent Application by CoinDesk on Scribd

Solar panels image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

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South Korean Telecoms Giant KT Has Built Its Own Blockchain

KT Corporation, one of the largest telecoms companies in South Korea, has launched a proprietary blockchain network, aiming to apply the technology across areas including ID verification, data roaming and energy trading.

According to a report from CoinDesk Korea, the firm revealed its KT Network Blockchain on Tuesday, boasting a throughput of 2,500 transactions per second (TPS) thanks to an integration with its existing high-speed commercial network.

The company further claims it can scale up that figure to 10,000 TPS by the end of the year and even as high as 100,000 TPS by 2019.

With the launch, KT said it is now looking to employ the technology to authenticate users’ identities in order to streamline international roaming services. The feature would allow users’ information to be securely shared among global partners over a distributed network.

For the first stage of the plan, the telco said it will work with China Mobile and Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo to start exploring the tech in international data roaming within the year.

KT Network Blockchain is also expected to play a role in energy trading in the second half of the year, with corporations participating as nodes to exchange unused energy quotas across the distributed network.

Today’s announcement follows a plan – announced by KT in April – to use a new telecommunications system integrated with blockchain security solutions as part of a digital infrastructure project dubbed “Future Internet.”

Network cables image via Shutterstock

The leader in blockchain news, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.