Platforms for Distributed Energy Resources
"P2P platforms provide consumers direct access to and enhanced information about the source of diversified goods or services.
On the electricity side, this past April, Netherlands-based Vandebron (literally translated as “from the source”) launched a platform similar to VRBO, which allows individuals to buy electricity straight from a local farmer with excess electricity production from solar PV panels or biogas-to-power installations. Forget farm-to-table food; this is farm-to-meter power. The website allows you to pick from different producers, each featuring a high-quality picture and a small story about their farm, betting on the trust component to change how people pick their electricity producer. In this example, farmers receive a higher compensation from the platform per unit of electricity then they would selling their power to traditional utilities.
Likewise, California-based Mosaic offers private investors a P2P lending platform for solar power, although Mosaic aggregates investors to fund larger solar projects, so it may more accurately be described as a group-to-peer platform. Mosaic customers invest in solar projects sited on top of schools and other locations, and earn a rate of return that beats many investment vehicles in the market today. Revenue from the solar generation is shared between the investor and employed to offset the customer utility bill." (http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2014_09_02_an_airbnb_or_uber_for_the_electricity_grid)
"As decentralized DER markets emerge, the possibility that the power sector becomes a massive platform for shared economy businesses is real and exciting. As others have opined, the electricity consumer will quickly become a prosumer in a shared power economy, benefitting participants and non-participants alike. The question is how the incumbent grid can financially survive the coming energy system disruption, as it is a valuable component of the platform.
No P2P platform is without a centralized backbone. Whether Airbnb, Uber, or something as yet unknown for DERs, telecommunications and software infrastructure—and the electricity grid—is a critical enabler of a P2P sharing economy. This is true, not just to literally make the platform work, but also to provide consumers with both choice and reliability.
Can’t find a ride on Uber? Take your personal car, or use a car-sharing service, or call a taxi, or rent a car, or take public transportation. You’ve got options, including several “centralized” ones, and those options give you both choice and reliability. So it should be with power, too. A P2P sharing economy for DERs doesn’t obviate centralized power resources and the grid—it complements the grid to provide consumers with a more optimized set of choices and reliability.
P2P solutions are an exciting prospect, but other options, including grid-sourced power, will remain a piece of the puzzle that together offer the system reliability people and businesses demand of today's electric power grid.
Along with grid utilization improvements, the increased market adoption of decentralized energy resources creates new markets for democratized and transactive trading of power and information. In turn, the opportunity for trade creates opportunities for new business models to disrupt the current utility monopoly around power delivery.
The regulatory challenge and opportunity is to determine the best path forward to support innovation through markets, maintain gains in clean energy programs, and uphold regulatory compacts to provide reliable service at reasonable rates. Existing regulatory paradigms and utility systems are insufficient to enable the same type of information, payment, and market disruption that spawned the sharing economy. New distribution system platforms are under development in several jurisdictions, either leading—or being led by—the explosive growth of DERs." (http://blog.rmi.org/blog_2014_09_02_an_airbnb_or_uber_for_the_electricity_grid)