The vision of blockchain as the route to a distributed low energy utopia has not delivered, argues Jeremy Gordon. Instead it points to an always-on, high-energy-demand future, favouring a power system of abundance driven by clean nuclear power. SOME SAW IT AS THE perfect way to decarbonise and democratise energy: let everyone generate distributed electricity from and record every kWh on a permanent public blockchain. Everyone would buy and sell electricity using the same system, trading with each other minute to minute, enabled by mobile internet and regulated by smart grids. Blockchain promised that this system would be publicly accessible, yet people could be anonymous if they wanted, and it would still be secure enough to pay everyone what they were owed automatically. In simple terms it would enable you to use rooftop solar to charge up your electric car during the weekend and then sell the electricity to your employer from the car park on a Monday. The big picture would be one where every individual and every company would be doing things like that all the time and the system would somehow resolve it all in real time. It was an attractive vision of a circular economy where technology would blend energy and money into a utopian low-energy lifestyle. But there was a problem hidden deep in the mathematics, and now blockchain technology is driving us in the other direction, towards uses that could only be tolerated in a society of energy abundance, not of streamlined efficiency.
Nuclear Engineering International 29th April 2021 read more »