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Peer-to-peer trading, renewables and blockchain: What’s inside Ofgem’s ‘Regulatory Sandbox’

An EDF-led consortium is aiming to trial a local, peer-to-peer (P2P) power trading platform enabled by blockchain as one of a number of projects Ofgem is currently discussing in the context of its Regulatory Sandbox project.

Earlier this year Ofgem’s Innovation Link announced that it was to open an energy ‘regulatory sandbox’ – a space in which energy companies could trial new innovations without incurring or being subject to all usual regulatory requirements.

Ofgem discussed the concept at last week’s Power Responsive conference organised by National Grid, and yesterday confirmed in a note that a number of projects were being advanced to the next stage. 

Of those projects, EDF’s UK research and development division will collaborate with blockchain platform provider Electron, energy technology firm PassivSystems, London-based renewables developer Repowering London and University College London on a new P2P power trading platform.

The platform will allow residents in urban areas to source their power from local renewable generators and trade it with their neighbours in a bid to increase self-consumption.

While the update provided no specific details of the project, much of Repowering London’s developments have centred around the London districts of Hackney and Brixton.

Other projects Ofgem is entering into discussions with include the launch of a platform by Origami Energy that would allow commercial consumers to buy their power directly from independent generators in a not too dissimilar fashion from Good Energy and Open Utility’s Selectricity product.

OVO Energy is to work alongside VCharge in trialling a new tariff supported by smart home technology, specifically storage heaters, designed to lower household bills and enable grid balancing capabilities, while Empowered will also trial a local P2P trading network aimed at consumers with small-scale generators eager to trade electricity with each other.

A number of other projects are also being discussed, however these parties have wished to remain anonymous for the time being. Meanwhile a further three projects are to go ahead without sandbox support.

Trials are to last for up to 24 months and will likely be supported by ‘bespoke advice’ from the regulator.

Ofgem noted that it had received 30 expressions of interest in regulatory sandbox, but noted a majority of proposed trials failed to identify a specific regulatory barrier that would prohibit them from progressing as they are.

A second window for sandbox applications is to open during October and November this year, with a view to undertaking an initial assessment by February 2018.