Peer-to-Peer Energy Grid

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Vasilis Kostakis, Chris Giotitsas, et al. :

"There is a general lack of extensive research on the subject of P2P infrastructure implementation on energy production. Ref. [5] suggests the use of P2P networks in order for peers (assuming they are both produces and consumers) to easily buy or sell, in this case, hydrogen. Ref. [11] propose the implementation of different types of P2P architectures in power grids and discuss their general advantages and disadvantages. Our theoretical microgrid, being a P2P network, can operate without a central control node and the loss of any of its modules will not result in the collapse of the whole system. Thus, new units can be added or old ones replaced without having to alter the control system. Each energy consumer of the grid is also a producer. This can be achieved by various forms of microgeneration, but as was previously discussed, we focus on renewable energy sources like PV, small wind turbines and others. This, of course, depends on the available renewable energy sources of each area. Production takes places within the house or close by in order to reduce transmission losses and possibly utilize cogeneration (see Ref. [81]. Further, the houses can be retrofitted in order to become more energy efficient [17]. When a producer has surplus power, it can be stored using various methods [79] but, since this procedure is still quite costly and the current technological level does not offer completely efficient storage, losses will occur. The excess power can be distributed amongst the peers of the microgrid, in order to avoid having wasted energy. Now, instead of attempting to employ complex algorithms and technological equipment to negotiate prices (as is usually the case for DG research projects) for the buying and selling of energy, the system could be engineered to allocate excess energy according to where it might be needed.

Creating, in essence, a common energy pool within the microgrid.

As mentioned before, a microgrid can operate both autonomously and as a part of a grid. A second P2P network is proposed on another level. One comprised of microgrids in that are in close proximity from one another (in the context of urban landscapes). This larger network may obey the same rules as its component networks. Excess energy from each individual microgrid can be distributed in the rest according to their needs, basically creating an even greater common energy pool. Similarly, if for any reason one the microgrids collapses it would not compromise the operation of the whole system. If there is still an energy surplus, then the network can sell it to the central utility grid, if possible (Fig. 1). The funds could be diverted to the maintenance of the connectivity among the peers. There appear to be two levels of common ownership possible. One is that of the infrastructure for energy production (PV, wind turbines, meters) and second is that of the energy itself. So in our case, we are discussing the latter. Each producer-consumer is able to join or leave the grid at will, though within the grid the collective behavior is defined by the community itself. Thus, the specific rules that will define the form and the fine-tuning of the microgrid will be shaped according to the goals and the desires of the “commoners”. The main difference between information and energy is that the former is abundant in that it can be reproduced in nearly zero marginal cost. So peer produced information (like FOSS) can be distributed freely to anyone, whether they contribute to its creation on not, forming a true information commons. Energy, on the other hand, might be abundant (solar energy for instance) but it is not possible, at least for the time being, to efficiently harness, store and transmit it. Therefore, energy produced in our model might be considered a commons only for those participating in the production.

Since there is no research conducted to provide hard data regarding the feasibility of this model, interviews were conducted with four energy grid experts and a P2Poriented hacktivist in order to obtain feedback regarding the matter. These semi-structured interviews were guided by the following questions: How are new technologies revolutionizing the energy system? What role could the CBPP and open technologies acquire in this context? Do they think this proposed model is possible? If not, what would they suggest could make it possible? What advantages and disadvantages can they locate on the theoretical model? What is your view on the idea of decommodification of energy and the establishment of energy commons? Based on the combined feedback from the interviewees the following remarks can be made. Regarding the theoretical model all interviewees feel that it is consistent with the current trends for distributed energy and they agree that, technically speaking, it is entirely possible, with the technology necessary fully developed and new options available in the near-term. Open technologies can be implemented in the ICT aspect of the microgrid but also, to some degree, on the production itself thus reducing costs and providing modularity and flexibility. Economically and logistically the model does present challenges. Lack of research on the specific model is mostly attributed to the focus of the market demand on the dominant model. They point out however, that this model presents similarities to multiagent microgrids. Though, besides the structural differences, what this model presents is a different socioeconomic approach.

The following advantages have been noted about the model:

1. It decommodifies energy, i.e., it removes the effect of speculation through market mechanisms and eliminates the economic-political power coming from centralized, private production and management of an important resource for society.

2. Small-scale producers/consumers develop an environmental conscience due to the fact that they experience first-hand the energy production process with its limitations and side-effects.

3. It offers far greater resilience and security than the current centralized system since the collapse of one of its components does not influence the entire network. 4. It minimizes energy losses and the use of methods that are harmful for the environment and it promotes sustainability.

5. New technological options are being made available in energy production and storage that could diversify possible solutions for different geographic locations, but also reduce the costs.

There are certainly challenges to this model according to the interviewees. These are summarized as follows:

1. The main disadvantage is the high-cost investment, especially in the case where only renewable sources are used for production (for instance avoiding to use a diesel generator). In this case the cost for energy storage, since renewables cannot produce constantly, can be very high (at least for the time being).

2. Another weakness is the relative inefficiency of smallscale production in comparison with large-scale. Although the interviewees agree that this inefficiency is partly covered by the smaller loses due to the near distance consumption compared to the great losses in large distances. This difference is difficult to measure without any hard data. 3. Another limitation of this model is its inability to include technologies that are not possible to be deployed in small scale. Hunting mentions ocean thermal energy conversion, which despite being a technology with many advantages and is actually carbon-negative, has been shunned by renewable energy activists because it does not fit the grass-roots alternative energy rhetoric.

4. They also point out that while this model would be suitable for a suburban landscape, it could present a difficult deployment in a dense urban space whose energy needs are far greater and the capacity for renewable energy production is limited, though this could potentially be weighted out by more efficient use of energy and space due to proximity. 5. Despite the deregulation in the energy industry, there is not a clear legal framework or incentives that can facilitate such a model (for barriers see also [9]). Further, energy is highly “political”, thus there are parties that oppose such attempts for a different paradigm." (