Is an electricity eBay in our future?

Editor's Note: To learn more about peer-to-peer energy networks don't miss VERGE@Greenbuild Nov. 12-13.

The smart grid can deliver significant changes to consumer interactions in electricity markets. Today, consumer enrollment in demand response (DR) programs is the typical form of participation with a focus on the production of negawatts.

Among the most exciting possibilities for smart grid innovations are the opportunities for consumers to become prosumers – and participate as producers as well as consumers of energy in the distribution (low voltage) grid.

There are two primary models that have been proposed to foster prosumer participation. The first model presumes that the utility is the ultimate arbiter of all transactions as the buyer and seller. This is the model that we see enacted today in the form of net metering and Feed-In Tariffs (FiTs).

The second model is referred to as a peer-based or transactive energy grid, in which all participants have equal status and may deal directly with each other in hyperlocal energy markets. Think of it as an eBay model for electricity buying and selling.

At the recent Metering/Billing/CRM Europe conference in Amsterdam, I learned firsthand about an interesting pilot called PowerMatchingCity in the Netherlands that is exploring peer-based energy grids.  This project has a number of players associated with it, including TNO, a Dutch R&D organization funded by the government, private enterprises, and European Union grants; Enexis, the local electric utility; DNV KEMA; and the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft).

This project covers 25 residential homes in the city of Groningen that are equipped with micro combined heat and power (CHP) equipment, smart appliances, smart meters, electric vehicles, and rooftop solar.  This project addresses participants, markets, and devices. This week’s article covers participants and markets.