Transformation of the Energy Sector – Interview with Joan Colell, FlexiDAO
FlexiDAO provides a software platform for Energy Retailers that harnesses the power of blockchain technology to provide energy data management tools needed to offer new smart energy services. Their vision is to provide the IT backbone that enables the transformation of the energy sector into a truly carbon-free, prosumer-centric and democratic market.
Joan Collell, COO & Head of Business Development, has former strategy, sales, and marketing experience from Bain & Co, Google, and Henkel. He is a former senior associate consultant at Bain & Co. with strategy projects in the energy sector, sales associate at Google, and international marketing intern at Henkel. He has expertise in customer experience and engagement. Joan has an MSc in Marketing Management and is a BBA graduate from ESADE Business School (Spain).
Could you give us a brief background and aims of FlexiDAO?
Our first product RESpring, helps Energy Retailers to answer the growing need for increased personalization, proximity to energy sources, and green electricity requested by consumers, both businesses and individuals. RESpring lets consumers select their preferred renewable source based on their sustainability criteria, and then it tracks how this selected renewable generation is matching their electricity consumption with greater transparency and granularity than any other official certification mechanism. Any kind of generation asset (from a large wind farm to rooftop solar) and consumption point (from manufacturing facilities to households or EV chargers) can be registered on RESpring, allowing for maximum flexibility and scalability.
Corporates need RESpring to reach ambitious Corporate Social Responsibility targets by powering 100% of their operations with renewable energy. The question “What does it mean being 100% renewable?” and the risk of being accused of green-washing, puts pressure on corporates to purchase renewable energy from sources that have a low environmental impact, boost the local economy and have high societal impact and, more importantly, to prove it and showcase it to all their stakeholders and clients. This translates into sophisticated purchasing requirements that Retailers cannot meet through the official certification mechanisms. At the same time, it provides the opportunity for Energy Retailers to differentiate their offer by adding layers of value.
On the other side, it helps individuals looking for an easy digital experience when contracting energy, coupled with transparency, personalization, and a growing trend of joining communities of peers. RESpring directly connects renewable energy producers, from small rooftop PV systems up to large wind farms, with energy consumers, and enables precise tracking.
How is FlexiDAO structured, and what is the size of your current team? What kind of growth is expected?
FlexiDAO started in 2016 as the result of a 1-year research project by two of its co-founders with the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya. It was founded as a company in October 2017 when the third co-founder joined. It has now grown into a young and passionate team composed of 13 international professionals with a track record in the energy, technology, and consultancy industries. From its founding to today, the team has grown from 3 to 13 employees, with an average of 5 people joining per year. Now we expect to slow down this growth for a while due to Corona, but we are still hiring new passionate developers to help us continuously innovate our software.
How can FlexiDAO aid renewable energy deployment?
FlexiDAO helps companies to transition to Net-zero emissions by tracking in a transparent way, where their energy comes from and their resulting carbon emissions. In this way, it empowers consumers to make educated decisions on how to reduce their carbon footprint. RESpring does not substitute the official certifications, but it adds a layer of transparency, speed, and granularity, which is currently missing.
How does the RESpring platform work? Are there any similar projects out there? What are the potential energy savings and efficiency improvements?
The software uses FlexiDAO’s proprietary Blockchain Digital Identity Management as back-end technology to act as a digital, decentralized notary that creates a shared, immutable device identity registry and a record of attributes and transactions.
Taking RESpring as an example, tracking how generation matches consumption means recording a kWh as a registered device’s attribute and then transferring (transaction) to another identity based on the agreement (the digital copy of the commercial contract) between the two and its consumption. This allows us to avoid double-counting, compliance, and auditing risks while reducing manual processes of data transfer & settlement in an easy, regulatory-compliant, and scalable manner.
Can you tell us about the EW blockchain your platform uses? What advantages does it bring to you?
Energy Web blockchain is an open-source, public proof of authority (PoA) blockchain built on top of Ethereum core technology for the energy sector.
Scalability with low transaction costs:
- Proof of authority PoA chains are much more scalable than others (e.gBitcoin) because they rely on trusted authorities (i.e. ~100 utilities and startups part of EWF) to validate the transaction and sustain the blockchain, instead of millions of nodes
- Cost per trasactionisx1000 smaller than public Ethereum blockchain
- Low energy consumption
- PoA chains don’t use “mining” as traditional proof-of-work (PoW) chains do (e.g. Bitcoin). PoW is an exceptionally energy-intensive computing operation. Substituting PoW with PoA allows EW Blockchain to be extremely energy efficient.
- Private transactions on a public network: EW Blockchain fits perfectly with the R.E. certification use case.
- It’s public and open-source, so it allows full transparency and interoperability among market participants
- Through the mechanism called «zero-knowledge-proof» it enables private transactions without compromising transparency
How important have the globally recognized award wins been for FlexiDAO? How much visibility have these nominations brought you?
They were crucial for the recognition that what we are doing is meaningful and satisfies a market need in an innovative way. This attracted investors and clients and created a lot of opportunities and a backup of credibility.
How is the data tracing executed? How about the data corrections and validations?
Recording: Generation data is gathered from national data hub, smart meter, or from SCADA and recorded into the blockchain. This creates a digital unit of energy produced (token).
Matching: The digital unit is assigned to the consumption of customers based on the contractual agreements defined (e.g. only wind energy from 50km away).
Correction: Certified settlement data is used to correct the real-time token creation and assignation (e.g. filling data gaps) to ensure regulatory compliance.
Settlement: Digital certificates are claimed for the consumer after corrections are completed and linked end of the period to the legally binding Energy Attribute Certificates (EACs).
What does your software license pack include? Do you run promotions?
The Starter Package will include the Software’s following set of functionalities:
- Blockchain-based Assets, Users & Meter registry
- Renewable electricity certificates creation (generation data tokenization)
- Generation and consumption matching (i.e. matching algorithm) based on over-the-counter bilateral agreements between the producer(s) and consumer(s)
- CO2 avoidance tracking tool – for more information visit ⦁ FlexiDAO’s wiki page
- For the End-Client:
- Sustainability dashboard (key reporting metrics)
- Consumption site overview (one per registered site – matching tracking, map, and CO2 avoidance tracking)
- Generation site overview (one per registered site)
- Marketing page to be embedded in end-client’s webpage
- Full-screen view for in-store display
- For the Customer
- Management Dashboard and Settings page
- Gas Relay (transaction payment mechanism)
- Account (private key) recovery system
- OctoVault (digital wallet)
FlexiDAO’s revenue model is based on a subscription fee based on the volume of energy tracked in the system. This fee has a fixed and variable component. Two different software packages are available, REspring Basic and REspring Gold, which differ in terms of functionalities for the end-consumer.
Can you briefly tell us about your partnerships?
Our partners supported us financially from the very beginning, but it was not only money; it was also industry contacts and understanding of the energy industry more in-depth. For example, our first launching customer, Acciona, came through an innovation project program that one of our partners launched. This is an example that we leveraged from our partners. They continued to help us from different angles – business development, market understanding, etc…
Have the current EU changes in legislation towards blockchains hindered you?
For now, we are more concentrated on the regulations of the energy market more than the ones about blockchain technology.