A Decentralized Future: Japan’s Biggest Energy Giant Invests in Ethereum Blockchain Startup

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The Tokyo Electric Power company (TEPCO) has invested in UK-based blockchain firm Electron in a focused pivot from centralized structures to decentralized systems for the energy sector.

In an announcement on Friday, TEPCO revealed its investment in London-based blockchain startup Electron toward the end of 2017.  With revenues of over $456 billion, TEPCO is Japan’s largest utility provider servicing millions of homes in Japan alongside subsidiaries and affiliates in 8 other countries. TEPCO said the two companies will explore solutions to make away with today’s centralized infrastructure to usher in a decentralized blockchain platform for energy transactions.

TEPCO underlined its intent to explore “the transformative potential” of decentralized blockchain technology with its investment in Electron, bringing an end to the latter’s early-stage bridging investment round. The investment and subsequent coming-together will help TEPCO “obtain additional know-how on blockchain that has the potential to significantly impact the energy market,” added TEPCO managing executive officer Shin-ichiro Kengaku.

Electron has long touted the benefits of using blockchain technology to upgrade the energy industry’s infrastructure (some 30-40 years old at this point) for efficient power sharing with major cost savings.

Using the Ethereum blockchain, Electron demoed a platform simulating data from 53 million metering points at individual homes from 60 energy providers and proved that energy supplier switches could be executed up to 20 times faster than current switching rates. The same ‘smart meter’ service could also be deployed to other utilities including telecom and water, convincing one former executive from major European utility provider Npower to join Electron’s board.

In statements about the startup’s newest investor from Japan, Electron CEO Paul Ellis said:

“In the next phase of energy transformation, millions of new assets will be joining energy networks at both the transmission and distribution levels. There is a huge need to create a robust shared infrastructure that can identify and record the properties of these assets – this can be underpinned by appropriate blockchain technologies.”

Its investment aside, TEPCO has previously established its intent to proactively collaborate with other major energy giants in joining the Energy Web Foundation, a global energy blockchain initiative and non-profit whose million ‘is to accelerate the commercial deployment of blockchain technology in the energy sector.’ Among its partners in the blockchain initiative is Singaporean counterpart Singapore Power which is looking at deploying blockchain technology for a number of commercial applications including heating, ventiliation and air conditioning, as well as batteries, solar cells and electric vehicles, all of which would be able to ‘transact with each other’.

Featured image from Shutterstock.

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