Energy Web Foundation: 7 questions


Energy Web Foundation (EWF) has big bones. It was founded by two leading clean energy organizations: the influential Rocky Mountain Institute founded by Amory Lovins in 1982 and the more recent Grid Singularity, a blockchain and network focused organization with developers. blockchain Ethereum, senior energy executives, energy regulators and tech entrepreneurs.

They founded the Energy Web Foundation, a global non-profit organization focused on accelerating blockchain technology in the energy sector.

Lovins, of course, are famous for their early interest in gentle energy paths, a distributed model of electricity production and consumption with consumption as close as possible to production, and with fewer major long-distance transmission lines from centralized energy sources. This thinking aligns well with the micro-grid and disintermediation goal of many blockchain energy startups.

Pierre Bronski responded on behalf of EWF to seven commonly asked questions about blockchain cleantech initiatives. The following has been slightly modified.

What is the status of EWF today?

EWF is an independently incorporated non-profit organization co-founded by the Rocky Mountain Institute and Grid Singularity, headquartered in Switzerland and with a significant team presence in Germany and the United States (but global reach). Since its founding in 2017, EWF has grown rapidly from 10 affiliates to around 50, securing more than $ 21 million in funding to date. More importantly, EWF has made significant progress on its core technology, including announcing a series of improvements in the beta of its blockchain test network and the v1 version of its EW Origin app for renewable energy markets and carbon.

What is the governance model that you have in place to ensure that your offer is not misused or abused?

We believe that our governance model – both on and off the chain – is one of the key differentiators of the Energy Web chain compared to other blockchains, and that developing the right governance model is essential for acceptance and adoption in the highly regulated electricity sector. The EW channel remains open source and free to use; anyone can download the client and start using the network, building on-channel apps, etc.

However, the EW chain uses a new version of the consensus mechanism called proof of authority, in which validation nodes are approved, authorized and known energy companies. On other public networks, these validator nodes are anonymous minors. This type of transparent oversight is important when managing critical energy infrastructure.

This is also just the start of our governance model: we are currently working hard on the technical and governance white paper and plan to release it this summer. We will also be testing our governance structure over the next 12 months to identify weaknesses, vulnerabilities and feedback loops, all in anticipation of a genesis block of our chain in the second quarter of next year.

What is the incentive model that you have put in place to balance the value between all the participants in the blockchain?

Based on the governance model described above, there are several incentives on our channel:

  • Commit nodes can be incentivized with a simple block commit reward. On our channel, there is no mining – a validator node is called via a round robin to perform its function as an authorized node with automatic updates on the network. One way to encourage the participation of these known and authorized validator nodes is to entice them with a simple token reward.
  • On the other hand, protocol changes on our network are actually in the hands of developers. Most governance models to date are experimenting with giving token holders the ability to vote for protocol changes. In our model, we give developers the option to vote for protocol changes. Here, developers who wish to vote to upgrade the network have to go through a simple KYC process proving that they are a true blockchain / energy developer. Then they can vote on changes to the network based on the total usage of their dApps and smart contracts.

We believe that the combination of these two chain processes – automatic validation by prompted validation nodes and chain voting by well-known developers using the network – is a good starting point for the type of chain we are putting together.

How are you hedging against the significant reductions in the value of the cryptocurrency as seen in Q1 2018?

Fluctuations in the value of cryptocurrencies can certainly influence the amount and speed with which crypto investments are transferred into the energy blockchain, including EWF. However, EWF affiliates mainly invest in fiat money.

Most importantly, our main goal is to leverage the blockchain many desirable attributes for the energy sector, rather than cryptocurrency. We are quite deliberately not symbolizing the energy itself. Instead, we’re interested in how blockchain could support or fundamentally transform a myriad of power grid use cases, from renewable energy certificate transactions to peer-to-peer and other forms. of transactive energy. Tokens play a role in the EW network, but their main function is to secure the network and make it more resistant to bad actors, not necessarily to trade on exchanges like with Bitcoin and Ether.

Is Proof of Stake a final consensus approach or an intermediate step like Proof of Work, and if so, which consensus approaches do you think you dominate?

For the EW chain, we use a special form of proof of authority for consensus. It offers the kind of transparent oversight we believe the energy industry needs, especially for regulators who want to know who is “legalizing” blocks of transactions. But in addition, our form of proof of authority – in tandem with other tactics such as para chains – also enables the necessary scale and speed that an energy sector specific blockchain must have. to potentially manage the transaction throughput of millions of smart, connected devices such as rooftop solar systems, electric vehicle chargers, smart thermostats, etc. Other forms of consensus are simply too slow to reach the scale necessary to manage network operations. The evidence for the stake is great, however. In fact, we are considering requiring both developers and validators in the EW chain to stake a certain amount of tokens as another check and balance against bad behavior.

What key metrics or KPIs do you consider critical to your offering and business model?

Most importantly, we want to see the adoption of the Energy Web chain as the standard blockchain foundation – the digital DNA – of the many applications being developed by utilities, energy companies, startups and others. Already, we have over 30 companies building and testing applications on our Tobalaba testnet. When the EW Chain goes live with its genesis block in Q2 2019, we hope to see the continued adoption of the EW Chain as the first base layer choice on which others build their energy applications. We also want significant throughput, now measured in terms of transactions per second, to flow through our chain to push the boundaries of scalability.

As a forerunner, what advice would you give to people considering entering the cleantech blockchain space in the coming year?

coming from crossing 2018 event horizon – a world summit that brought together the global energy blockchain community – it is clear that this is an exciting and growing space with huge potential, but also somewhat in its infancy. With the EW chain, the clean tech industry has the opportunity to come together around early standardization and shared investment that accelerates the learning curve and core technology development. This allows all market players to access market-ready applications increasingly quickly and reduce the initial potential hype and skepticism into real, workable solutions that deliver on blockchain’s promises. For those planning to enter the cleantech blockchain space in the coming year, now is the time to move. The space is already changing rapidly, so those who wish to co-lead the movement will soon have to embark.

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