The renewable energy industry has trends like any other, and one of the big ones for this year is blockchain. Never heard of it? Here's a quick rundown. Africa has many rapidly growing economies but struggles to access reliable and affordable energy. It has a great abundance of natural sunlight, which makes solar power an attractive choice.
Traditional investment forms are challenging because of perceived (and real) threats of currency fluctuation and corruption. These make it difficult to send payments back and forth from African countries, making it both time-consuming and costly.
Various solutions have been proposed, including crypto-currencies and blockchain technologies. The latter enables micro-transactions on a peer-to-peer basis, along with accounting. Blockchain systems are open and distributed and can record financial transactions between a buyer and a seller in a way that can be verified for security and recorded for accounting purposes.
The technology also allows transactions to be automatically programmed under set conditions through the use of a 'smart contract'. This takes away the need for an intermediary to perform a role within the payment transaction.
One of these providers is the Sun Exchange, which is a crowd-sales platform that allows investors to buy solar panels that are being used in Africa and then earn income from them. The blockchain system is used to record the ownership of each solar asset, and remittance is delivered through Bitcoins. This allows rapid and secure micropayments to happen.
The technology can also close funding gaps for some areas where projects are small and largely unfunded through the crowd-sale approach, which allows multiple small investors to benefit. Blockchain is therefore a great example of a renewable energy enabler using a supporting technology that facilitates investment in a new way.