Innotalks: How Blockchain is Changing Traditional Industries, Such as Energy

When a group of people which has been operating within a certain industry for some time becomes so well-acquainted with this industry that it begins to see opportunities for new solutions, while in parallel, new technologies emerge, such as blockchain, or alternative ways of obtaining funds, such as token sale, a new business opportunity is born. This creates a good environment for the launch of projects, such as SunContract, a “marketplace for electricity”, as described by Rok Gornik of the SunContract team, who briefly presented the project on 17 May at the 5th edition of Innotalks at Slovenia’s ABC Accelerator.

 

As Gornik explained in his introduction, a large part of the SunContract team has been part of the energy industry for a long time so they are no strangers to identifying possible improvements in the field of energy solutions. They therefore saw a great opportunity in token sale, which represents a modern approach to raising funds, as well as in blockchain itself, as this provided a winning combination for a supportive environment, that is, a community, which also supported the SunContract project.

The company is very happy with the outcome of their offer, as the token sale attracted about 2,300 participants from all over the world. What came as a surprise was the fact that nearly half of them were from Slovenia, which shows that the Slovenian environment is also open for new energy solutions, such as those offered by SunContract.

The SunContract energy platform was officially launched in mid-April in Bled, Slovenia, as part of a conference on the smart village concept, although the first electricity sales contracts were already concluded on 1 April. The platform opened the energy market, enabling peer-to-peer (P2P) energy trading. “We are revolutionising the energy industry,” said the CEO of SunContract, Gregor Novak, in a statement for Energetika.NET at the event marking the platform launch.

 

           

PHOTO: Siniša Kanižaj / ABC Accelerator

Tackling scepticism with connections and openness 

“Every time you enter a traditional market, there is scepticism, even if the players know the sector very well,” said SunContract’s Rok Gornik at the 5th edition of Innotalks at the ABC Accelerator. The scepticism – also towards blockchain itself – is being tackled mostly by forming connection, also between energy companies which are otherwise competitors, he said.

“We have set out on a path of building a community and our focus was not so much on traditional marketing,” he said, sharing his experience of launching the first energy project of this sort. It should be noted that SunContract’s first supporters are already receiving electricity with the help of the platform, so via blockchain. According to Rok Gornik, these users are also staunch promoters of the project.

So what else has the company learned? “If we work with Ethereum (ETH), we need to have smart contracts, which have to be really well-prepared, while at the same time, as project promoters, we must also stand behind our actions, meaning that our operations must be completely transparent,” answered Gornik, adding that when it comes to the promotion of such projects, it is also key to have the support of some of the social media heavyweights.

“If the community, which we were able to build with the project, is trying to tell us something, we need to listen,” said Gornik, sharing SunContract’s experience. He emphasized the importance of open and honest communication. Additionally, when it comes to increasing the trust in such projects, traditional media can help as well, as a large part of the public trust still rests with it. The company believes it has taken the necessary time to communicate and present their project to major supporters as well.

Blockchain to become part of everyday life

“The people – both those who operate in the crypto world and those who do not – already know about blockchain, or have at least heard about it, whereas with time, blockchain will become part of everyday life, so we will not talk about it in the same way we do today,” said Gornik, adding that even today, the people are not wondering about the technologies behind the solutions, but are mostly interested in how these solutions can benefit them.

He believes that similar energy projects will begin to emerge in Slovenia and elsewhere, establishing their own foundations based on the combination of token sale and blockchain. “After all, the energy industry has an important goal of transitioning to an even larger share of renewable energy and to electric mobility, and one of the ways of ensuring this is through distributed sources and the related solutions, such as those applied in the SunContract project.”

By the end of the year, SunContract will decide (on the basis of past experience) which European markets to focus on after succeeding in the Slovenian market. They are currently interested in all the markets in Europe, whereas in the future, they may also enter the American market, said Gornik.

What kind of players decide to take part in SunContract’s platform?

When asked about what the prominent Slovenian energy players, such as GEN and HSE, think about the project, Gornik answered that they are well aware of it, which was also SunContract’s intention – to show the relevant public the alternative solutions currently available for achieving our goals (also energy-related ones). The company is also co-operating well with power distributors, he added.

“We are working on a platform which will be as user-friendly as possible, which means it will change constantly. Everyone will be able to trade energy on their own, but will also be able to have someone else do it for them. The user can therefore be as skilled [at trading; author’s note] as they wish to be,” he explained, adding that payments are not made on a monthly basis, as is traditionally the case, but on a “day before” basis, which means that the user receives the electricity today and pays for it tomorrow, whereas the price is agreed upon in advance in a contract with the partner company SONCE or directly with the producer through P2P trading.

SunContract is focusing mostly on small-scale users, which means they continually adapt their demand and supply, so that the system which they had established can be maintained, allowing them to post good results as SunContract grows and expands.