May 3, 2018 / 10:58 AM / a year ago

Blockchain-savvy engineers needed to revolutionize energy sector: Statnett

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway’s state-owned grid operator Statnett [STASF.UL] is convinced blockchain technology can improve efficiency in the energy sector but there is a lack of specialist staff, its research and development director Sonja Berlijn told Reuters.

Blockchain provides a secure platform for consumers to buy and sell directly from each other and is being explored by several European utilities which say it could revolutionize the energy sector.

Implementing blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) in the electricity system will reduce daily power consumption peaks and distribute utilization across the day, possibly curbing the length of any consequent demand-related price spikes, said Berlijn.

“As a consumer you can benefit from these technologies... It could possibly reduce the price fluctuations for consumers. That is the aim, we can hope for that,” she said.

Many prominent European utilities, including Italy’s Enel (ENEI.MI), Germany’s [EON.UL] and Sweden’s Vattenfall [VATN.UL], are looking to use the technology, with Britain’s Centrica (CNA.L) launching a market trial later this year.

The problem is that the global electricity sector lacks engineers with expertise to build blockchain systems and applications but, together with artificial intelligence (AI), it will be the future of electricity systems, Berlijn told Reuters.

“Blockchain technology will be able to reduce the day’s power consumption peaks by 20 percent,” she said.

Statnett wants to hire roughly 100 specialist staff capable of managing blockchain and AI engineering functions and will fund a professorship role in 2019 so a degree can be offered at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, she added.

“Traditionally we have electrical and mechanical engineers. We see a lack of supply with blockchain and digitization knowledge. We need to build it,” said Berlijn, herself Norway’s first professor of digital electrical power systems.

Currently, the company has about ten employees working with AI, but none of their engineers has blockchain specialization.

Applying the technology in the power system will mostly occur via peer-to-peer trading, by which households and firms can trade unused electricity and regulate their consumption better during the day, using AI-modified electronics.

Even though blockchain and artificial intelligence are hard to comprehend for most electricity consumers, understanding them will not be needed or expected, Berlijn said.

“The household electronics will have separate IPs, there will be algorithms that will reduce their consumption. And it will be done automatically in the future via applications,” she said.

($1 = 8.0469 Norwegian crowns)

Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

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