Power generation is about to face a significant makeover.
New digital startups and inventors are finding new ways for everyone to enjoy the renewable energy, with nature, data and blockchain shaping the future of the market.
Gham Power from Nepal is a prime example. Founded at a time when the country was facing severe brownouts, the founders looked to the sun for inspiration—literally.
“[Power shortages] made 24x7 power mean a lot for the citizens. So, we started our company by converting solar energy for residential projects,” Anjal Niraula, Managing Director, Gham Power and a recent honoree at the Forbes Under 30 Summit Asia recipient said.
Using solar energy as an alternative power source is not new. Many countries, including the US and China, are vying for top places.
However, applying the technology to meet the needs of both the urban and rural populations required cutting-edge technology and thinking.
“In the urban areas, we are looking to offset the cost of diesel or giving the ability for businesses to operate longer hours for more revenues. But in the rural areas the challenges are totally different,” Niraula said.
He noted that people in rural areas were not interested in the cheaper source of power or offsetting their current costs. "Rather, we had to show how much more work they can do with power," he added.
Gham Power got creative. They set up microgrids of solar panels that allowed rural users to purchase power via a subscription using an app on their mobile phones.
The company is also “clustering” projects of various communities, ensuring that the different power needs are aligned and are well managed. It also partnered with telco giants to use their base transceiver station towers and for mobile payments.
Data glued the various initiatives together. “We used data to predict the yield and understand how much customers will consume,” Niraula said.
In Singapore, former solar research engineer Julius Tan, another Forbes Under 30 Summit Asia honoree is using blockchain to disrupt how we get power.
Tan’s company, Electrify, is looking to make the opaque energy market more transparent.
“So, we built the first marketplace for retail energy. Now, anyone with a solar panel can become a power station," Tan said.
Blockchain technology is taking a central role in his vision. Electrify is creating an Ethereum-based blockchain platform to add transparency and improve provenance.
“For small producers of power, the power generation data needs to be immutable. You need a single source of truth. This is where blockchain technology plays a huge role,” Tan said. The online distributed ledger allows consumers to track whether the power is coming from the right source.
Tan and his team are also looking to use the platform data to forecast and gain insights into the consumption behavior and production profiles. “We can then ensure there is a good match; this is where the real hard work is," he added.
Tan's platform will allow consumers to find out the carbon footprint of their transactions quickly, and offset with carbon credits.
Carbon Grid Protocol is only trading on carbon credits “that are approved and regulated,” said Tan. He explained that his platform will use Ethereum as the underlying blockchain technology, but hopes to embed his solution in “as many blockchains as possible.”
Meanwhile, Reyhan Jamalova from Azerbaijan is taking a very different route to power.
Instead of looking at popular renewables or technological innovations, she decided to use rain--a resource that her country has plenty of.
One of the youngest honorees at the Forbes Under 30 Summit Asia and the only one from Azerbaijan built a device to collect rain and turn its potential energy into electricity. She now markets the device through her aptly named company, Rainergy.
Jamalova remains unfazed about the high-stakes alternative energy industry. She sees rural communities in countries where there is plenty of rain benefiting greatly.
She already received the "first level of the patent in Azerbaijan" and is looking to apply for these in countries where this product will be viable.