Blockchain May Soon Be Helping Puerto Rico Keep the Lights on

Solar panels. Batteries. Emergency fossil fuel-fired generators. They’ve all been deployed across Puerto Rico to help get the lights back on in the months following devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Now it’s blockchain’s turn.

Australian blockchain technology provider Power Ledger has its eyes set on the island, where power was wiped out by Irma and Maria last year. The company has hired Dante Disparte, a grid resiliency and security expert from Puerto Rico, to lead its efforts in the U.S. territory, said Jemma Green, co-founder and chair of the firm.

Power Ledger is working with factories and regulators to help companies on the island finance so-called microgrid resources such as solar panels and battery storage. It will then use its blockchain technology to allow the companies to trade power from those resources with one another, and to sell supplies to their employees or local communities. Through this exchange, people will be able to buy power in cash, cryptocurrency or — if a company wants it — labor.

Related: Inside Renewable Energy: Training and Recovery in Puerto Rico — Delivering Real Resilience with Solar Plus Storage

“The next hurricane season is but three weeks away and the grid is not reliable — that is part of the urgency,” said Disparte, who is also chief executive officer of advisory firm Risk Cooperative.

An Exodus

The goal is to stop an exodus of workers from the island and keep businesses from fleeing to the continental U.S. in search of more reliable power service. Disparte said he’s met with pharmaceutical and energy companies in Puerto Rico about the company’s plan. Some of their operations are in rural areas where distribution lines serving homes have remained down since the hurricanes struck.

Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority CEO Walter Higgins said in an interview last week that it’ll probably take another month or two to finish restoring electricity to the remaining 25,678 metered customers still without power following the storms. They represent 1.74 percent of the utility’s total customers.

Related: Inside Renewable Energy —The Business of Blockchain: Where Cryptotech Fits for Renewables Today and into the Future

Disparte said he isn’t interested in “just building back the old grid waiting for the next crisis and the next wave of financial constraints.” Later this year, Power Ledger’s cryptocurrency investors will be able to make investments in Puerto Rico energy assets using what are known as POWR tokens.

— With assistance by Rebecca Kern

©2018 Bloomberg News

Lead image: Loiza, Puerto Rico still cleaning up after the storms. March 17, 2018. Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture Photo by Preston Keres | Public Domain | Flickr

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