British Gas has joined a live community-energy blockchain trial involving customers living on a social housing estate in Hackney, London.
The trial, created by artificial intelligence (AI) company Verv, is to ensure that customers receive clear and fair bills when taking part in a network where energy is coming from multiple sources.
In this case, it will analyse how much energy is being consumed through British Gas and how much is coming from the solar panels.
Powered by Verv’s artificial intelligence technology and blockchain, experts from British Gas will be looking at how customers would be billed if owners of their solar panels could sell their excess energy to their neighbours.
The trial has been officially accepted onto the Ofgem sandbox to allow regulatory flexibility in order to explore new and disruptive technologies.
Peter Davies, CEO and founder of Verv, said: “Bill consolidation is a significant component of peer-to-peer energy trading; we need to ensure that consumers get a clear bill which breaks down where their energy has come from and charges them accordingly.
“We’re thrilled to have British Gas on board to help discover how we can offer customers seamless energy consumption options that include cheaper, locally sourced green energy.”
AI-based hubs were installed in 40 participating homes on the housing estate earlier this year in collaboration with Repowering, a social enterprise set up to facilitate community owned energy.
Solar panels had already been installed on the blocks of flats but were only used to power the communal areas of the buildings, with the majority of generation exported to the grid.
Verv has set out to unlock this sunshine powered energy so that it can directly benefit the local residents. The technology enables households with solar panels to sell excess energy directly to their neighbours, or in this case excess community solar power to be allocated to different flats in the blocks.
Peter Simon, customer propositions and product director at British Gas, said: “The emergence of new technology such as blockchain has the potential to be a game-changer for businesses and consumers, in this case giving customers the opportunity to benefit from cheap, renewable energy.
“As a long-standing investor in Verv, we’re excited to be taking the relationship on a step further as we look to explore new and better ways to deliver energy to our customers.”
Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, has previously invested £1.9 million into Verv through its social impact investment fund, Ignite, which now forms part of Centrica Innovations.