Project, an environmentally friendly Blockchain
Hi Derek, before we get into the nitty gritty of things, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Sure, well I’ve been involved with financial markets working with Macquarie Bank and then I worked with Accenture where I was called in to help introduce competition into energy markets. Dot com days provided the opportunity to escape the corporate world. It was a great time to raise funds to implement innovative ideas, so I raised £2m to build the first online power market called PowerEx, which I then sold to a Dutch buyer. Since then I have been building Beond which gave birth to Zero Carbon Project.
Prior to that, back in the day, I delivered papers and chemist prescriptions for several months to save up for my 16k Tandy Colour Computer which was loaded with Microsoft Basic programming language. I created some great games but unfortunately, I didn’t have the technical capability to crack machine code, assembly language and those new modems which were entering the scene. I’m still like that, in that I struggle with the detailed technical elements but fly with the application side of things.
What is the Zero Carbon Project and what does it set out to achieve?
We are tackling climate change using the blockchain. Renewables are responding brilliantly to the challenge with solar costs dropping massively over the last 10 years, for example. Battery technologies are following this trend. Mass adoption of electric vehicles with their potential to plug batteries into the electricity grid, will be the inflexion point, supporting intermittent renewables and evening peaks when the sun stops shining.
The problem with renewables is that they are still too expensive for mass adoption which is required to make a rapid and material impact on carbon reductions. Subsidies are running out so it may take several years until they are competitive with fossil fuels.
Zero Carbon Project provides a solution which covers the interim stage with zero carbon energy which is cheaper than fossil fuels. We provide a zero-carbon market for energy suppliers to compete to win our consumer’s business. The competing suppliers can purchase their energy from renewables, nuclear and carbon neutral sources. By carbon neutral we mean sourcing fossil fuels but offsetting their carbon emissions by purchasing international carbon credits.
This is exciting because international carbon credits are very cheap due to lack of demand. In fact, our intensely competitive market which we have honed over 15 years, can deliver cost reductions greater than the cost of the international carbon credits.
So, our Zero Carbon Market provides cost savings to consumers, while switching them to zero carbon energy.
How does Blockchain fit into this vision?
Where the blockchain comes in is with our Energis token economy. The problem remains that consumers are unwilling to prioritise switching for the cost savings on offer. Therefore, we intend to reward our customers for switching to zero carbon energy with Energis tokens. Our Energis tokens will provide a potent catalyst for change because they are a meaningful reward. They have been designed to capture or tokenise the future potential utility received by our future potential customers from our services.
To make this work we have designed smart contracts for energy suppliers to pay transaction fees for winning our energy consumers’ business; and the fees must be paid using Energis tokens. This provides the liquidity and internal demand required for our token owners. We then recycle up to 70% of these into our reward pool, to reward consumers for switching to zero carbon energy and contributing to tackling climate change.
As our consumer base increases, transaction fees increase and demand for Energis tokens increase. By limiting the supply of Energis tokens, we can capture the future utility received from the service we are providing. When owners sell Energis tokens to energy suppliers they will consider and estimate the future demand for their token.
This is the Energis token economy. And this is how we intend to tackle climate change.
Climate change is a very serious topic that deserves attention, what has been your involvement with climate change to date?
I prefer to admit upfront that I am not an environmentalist or a conservationist. I love trees and nature and am overawed by the complexity, elegance and beauty of the natural universe.
However, I don’t want to disrespect the philosophies of naturalists and the priorities they apply to their beliefs and interests, by claiming I am one of them.
However, I do pride myself on taking a scientific view of the world and the evidence clearly suggests that man-made carbon emissions are threatening our planet through climate change. I have to admit that I was a climate sceptic 30 years ago. Twenty years ago, my views were influenced by the scientific evidence presented during the Kyoto Protocol and I accepted that the catastrophic risks associated with climate change warranted a concerted global response. I was finally convinced of the problem 10 years ago by Al Gore and his docu-movie, “An Inconvenient Truth”.
Since then my business Beond has been tracking the range of renewable energy technologies and international carbon credits and discussing the benefits of renewables and energy efficiency with our clients. Our business formalised these discussions into our ‘technology services’ offering when subsidies made renewable energy a commercial reality for our clients.
A few years ago, I was invited to become the Chairman of West London Committee for Sustainability and Climate Change. We launched a four-point plan to reduce carbon emissions in West London, to introduce circular economy, to support smart clean city initiatives and to implement a clean-tech cluster working with Imperial College.
From the first part of the plan to reduce carbon emissions, Beond launched a zero-carbon project for West London. We realised that we could enhance this by using the blockchain to create a reward token to provide a powerful catalyst for change globally.
It is great to see the economic incentive model of Blockchain and cryptocurrencies used for a good cause, how did you get involved with blockchain?
In 2013 Philip Louw, our head of software, convinced me to invest in servers to experiment with mining bitcoins. I was particularly excited about the opportunity of turning electricity into bitcoin and at the same time being able to provide a valuable demand side response service to the electricity grid, who were looking for flexibility to cover the intermittency created by increasing use of solar panels. Unfortunately, both of us got distracted with other day-to-day business priorities so we missed the opportunity to scale our experiments.
A year ago, Philip and one of our consultants, Tomos Edwards, pinned me down to explain Ethereum smart contracts. It was better late than never, the klaxons started to blast and I haven’t slept well since. Our energy blockchain project was born, we have climbed a steep learning curve which only seems to be getting steeper.
I was fortunate enough to meet Bok Khoo, aka Bokky PoohBah, in Sydney, who is a highly respected Ethereum smart contract programmer. He has now been involved in over 30 blockchain projects including prominent projects such as MakerDAO and helping to clean-up TheDao hack. He also enjoys building an open source decentralised derivates crypto-exchange for the community. Bokky runs two seminars a week free of charge, patiently training up Ethereum newbies, including Solidity programmers, inventors, traders and entrepreneurs like me.
Philip, Tomos and I were inspired by the trustless nature of smart contracts created by their immutability, transparency and security. We immediately saw the opportunity to create an organisation without jurisdiction. We were onto the DAO involving automatic operations and management, planned by a token owner centric governance structure. We could see the opportunity for a global digital currency backed by global energy usage, rather than central bankers. This was before our euphoria was dampened after engaging with our solicitors King & Wood Mallesons; and the reactionary forces of centralised regulators.
Yes, we are hearing a lot of talk about regulation at the moment and we hope that the end result helps to enhance blockchain innovation. How are you dealing with the current crypto market climate?
We missed the ICO boom and are now adjusting to the current climate. We are not upset by a tighter environment as 20 years of entrepreneurial experience toughens you and you know that perseverance is key. What is critical is the quality of the idea.
Making things more difficult for us is our determination to stick to our principles of distributing power. So, we have structured our ICO to favour the smaller contributors who will also be our customers. We have pre-sale rounds totalling $5m with no maximum contributions, but our $15m main-sale has a 24 hour window with $3k maximum contributions to ensure the smaller contributors can secure enough tokens to make it worth their while.
We also democratised our private pre-sale by reducing the minimum contribution to 1 ETH, so that smaller contributors can benefit from the 50% price discount and allocation bonuses of up to 60%.
We are dealing with the dire ICO market climate by positioning ourselves for a potentially slow and extended token sale. The traditional objection to this from private pre-sale contributors is the extended wait to be able to use or sell their tokens. In response to this we are freeing up Energis tokens to use as soon as they are purchased.
In addition, we are providing early contributors with a liquidity event by launching our UK Zero Carbon Market in October. This will include listing Energis tokens on a decentralised crypto exchange. More importantly we will provide liquidity as energy suppliers will need to purchase Energis tokens to pay our transaction fees. We have 32 energy suppliers lined up and ready to compete for business across our Market.
That sounds like a very intelligent way to deal with the current market conditions. Are you optimistic about the future?
Yes, climate change is now a solvable problem. International carbon credits have a big role over the next several years, especially by subsidising growing more trees to soak up carbon emissions.
The problem will ultimately be nailed by solar, wind and batteries. This will probably happen quickly after the mass adoption of electric vehicles, which will bring free battery capacity to the electricity grid. Wave and tidal tech will struggle to compete but will probably have a role. Expensive scrubbers will probably need to be deployed to soak up some carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Centralisation of power may be a larger problem. China, Russia, Europe and US are too big and power is too far removed from the people. EU is run by several thousand bureaucrats who are disconnected from the average citizen, have their own interests, views and conflicts, which are not transparent. Trump is making a power play using traditional populist hard man methods.
I am inspired by the 4.7 million New Zealanders who punch way above their weight on the global stage in sports, business and culture. United Kingdom continues to provide the beacon on the hill by advancing democracy by being open to distributing power with plebiscites run on Brexit and Scotland.
Dot com was a false dawn. The idea that ‘data wants to be free’ has unexpectedly reduced the privacy of individuals and created new global centralised powers such as Google and Facebook.
Blockchain holds the prospect to distribute power to individuals and reduce the power of centralised institutions. Blockchain also has the potential to reduce the power of national political units with a diverse range of global digital currencies interacting with smart contracts. In Australia a new political party has been formed called Flux www.voteflux.org who are blockchain visionaries aiming to empower Australians to directly participate in parliament with the use of smart contracts.
On the horizon, like Elon Musk, I am concerned about artificial intelligence which may develop its own agenda, possibly in conflict with mankind’s goal and values.