The 21st century has been called the “century of the environment.” Governments -and individual citizens – can no longer assume that social challenges such as pollution, dwindling natural resources and climate change can be set aside for future generations. Through policy, research, education, incentives and forward-looking relationships with industry, government can play a central role in building a green future, community by community.
The prospects for success have never been greater. A dawning era of creativity and innovation in “green technology” (also known as “clean technology”) is bringing the promise of a healthier planet – as well as the prospect of growing businesses that can sustain its health. The excitement building around this sector is reminiscent of the early years of the information technology revolution.
Blockchain technology has been a big buzz word for a long time now. However the potential of Blockchain technology is still unfolding and provides multiple perspectives. Exploration in the field of green technology would fight corruption and the insufficient environmental, social and economic regulatory frameworks. Unravelling such technology by showcasing transparency would lead us in a direction where we’ll be able to make better decisions and increase the livelihood of each individual.
The report aims to highlight two of the multiple areas where Blockchain has shown potential i.e. Solar Energy and Agriculture. One will be able to familiarize themselves with the same and be able to build their own insight upon it. However, the report does not provide in depth details but has touch-based most of the section which is required to visualize our future by using Blockchain Technology.
What is Green Technology?
The term ‘technology’ refers to the application of knowledge for practical purposes, converting theoretical knowledge into its practical application.
Green technology (hereinafter Green Tech), refers to a type of technology that is considered environmentally friendly based on its production process or its supply chain. Green tech can also refer to clean energy production, the use of alternative fuels, and technologies that are less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels. The field of green tech encompasses a continuously evolving group of methods and materials, from techniques for generating energy to non-toxic cleaning products.
Although the market for green technology is relatively young, it has garnered a significant amount of investor interest due to increasing awareness about the impacts of climate change and the depletion of natural resources. Green tech is a broad category that encompasses several forms of environmental remediation. While climate change and carbon emissions are now considered among the most pressing global issues, there are also many efforts to address local environmental hazards. Some seek to protect specific ecosystems or endangered species. Others seek to conserve scarce natural resources by finding more sustainable alternatives.
The present expectation is that this field will bring innovation and changes in daily life of similar magnitude to the ‘information technology’ explosion over the last two decades. In these early stages, it is impossible to predict what this field of technology may eventually encompass.
In order to provide a viable alternative to fossil fuels, many businesses are seeking to engineer alternative sources of energy that do not generate atmospheric carbon. Solar and wind power are now among the most inexpensive sources of energy, and solar panels, for instance, are affordable to U.S. homeowners at a consumer scale. Other alternatives, such as geothermal and tidal energy, have yet to be deployed at scale.
Agriculture and allied activities also contribute to pollution and carbon emissions. Farming and livestock have a substantial environmental footprint, from the high costs of land and water usage to the ecological consequences of pesticides, fertilizers, and animal waste. As a result, there are many opportunities for green technology in the area of agriculture. For example, organic farming techniques can reduce the damage due to soil exhaustion, innovations in cattle feed can reduce methane emissions, and meat substitutes can reduce the consumption of livestock.
How does blockchain work?
A blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions that is kept secure by a network of computers. The technology enables individuals to transact directly with one another without the need for an intermediary such as a government, bank, or other third party.
The growing list of records, known as blocks, are linked together using cryptography. Each transaction is independently verified by peer-to-peer computer networks, time-stamped, and added to a growing chain of data. Data cannot be changed once it has been recorded.
While popularized by the increasing use of Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology has promising applications in legal contracts, property sales, agriculture, medical records, and any other industry that needs to authorize and record a series of actions.
To begin, a user or node will initiate a transaction and sign it with its private key. Essentially, the private key will generate a unique digital signature and ensure that no one can alter it. In reality, if anyone tries to change the transaction information, the digital signature will change dramatically and no one will be able to verify it. As a result, it will be rejected.
Following that, the transaction will be broadcasted to the verifying nodes. Essentially, the blockchain platform can use various methods to determine whether a transaction is valid. These methods or algorithms are known as consensus algorithms.
In any case, once the nodes have verified that the transaction is genuine, it will be recorded in the ledger. It will also have a timestamp and a unique ID to secure it further from any alteration. The block will then connect to the previous block, and a new block will connect to this block, and so on. As a result, it creates a chain of blocks, hence the name blockchain.
Creation of blockchain has been beneficial to different sectors, in different economic activities. For Example, in agriculture and its allied sectors, stores must maintain all required certificates and other documents that may be requested when purchasing food or other products for the customers, private or government entities. However, these documents do not say for sure whether it was a sick chicken or cow, how it was fed, and so on or excessive use of fertilizers for crops. In the future, blockchain networks should enable users to find all relevant details regarding food production and transportation, thus saving them time when researching the history of the products purchased. The blockchain system maintains all records without hidden modification, and a full description of the food’s origins will be received right on the smartphone, which is fast and easy. Similarly, in the cases of renewable energy trading, blockchain, being the secure network that it is, has now started proving its reliability with prosumers and consumers equally relying on it for the purposes of trading.
Using Blockchain in Solar Energy Trading: India vs. China
Blockchain technology has been ushering in nothing short of a decentralized revolution. Distributed/decentralized energy is recognized as the best way to ensure energy sustainability in the future. An open question is what promise the integration of blockchain and energy holds for the future. With technology progressing and the decreasing cost of renewable energy, consumers require energy supply to be smarter, cleaner, and more sustainable than before. By providing a decentralized trading mechanism, blockchain technology can facilitate sustainable energy consumption and achieve a circular economy.
At present, energy services are provided by physical enterprises, and such entities do not have a good relationship of trust with customers and partners. In such a case, blockchain is a very promising method that can replace trusted centres to directly implement peer-to-peer (P2P) energy transactions. The application of blockchain in the energy field is mainly concentrated on distributed energy systems, energy trading platform construction, electric vehicle charging, carbon tracking, smart device connection, and energy production source certificates.
While energy-intensive cryptocurrency mining has caused a spike in carbon emissions, blockchain is a blank canvas capable of driving innovation in the field of green technology and contributing to devise ways that can reduce carbon footprints. Start-ups and major companies alike are looking to unlock the potential that blockchain holds to catalyse the transition to green energy. A smarter electricity grid giving consumers transparent energy choices could push for more integration of clean energy.
A biomass plant owned by a farmer in rural India, for instance, could start delivering the backup power to the grid as soon as the central grid fails, for a price that may vary dynamically according to the rest of available energy in the system. If the blackout is during the day, many solar panels would also be able to cover the load, however, at night, the biomass plant operator has better leverage to sell his energy for a higher price. The market dynamics of supply and demand could all be automatically contracted within a smart contract blockchain environment.
The decentralization of energy systems democratizes information and allows individuals to make their better-informed decisions.
Blockchain smart grids to produce cleaner, better and cheaper energy, both areas with developed electricity grids and those lacking any energy access. It could serve as a road to sustainable development.
Most active region for blockchain pilots is Europe, the utilities are working on EV Charging, wholesale settlement, connected homes and lab creation efforts. However, the world’s first P2P energy transaction took place in New York in 2016. In South Africa, Sun Exchange, the solar power grid, connects investors to businesses and communities who need access to affordable electricity. Moreover, in China, Wanxiang, the national solar grid company, is planning to invest $30billion in a Blockchain backed Smart City Project.
Although blockchain is still in its nascent stages for Renewable Energy, its new applications and advancements are regularly occurring. Big changes are expected over the next few years in the energy industry as more and more companies are using Blockchain creating a business case and building a start-up team for this disruptive technology. India has set an ambitious target of 175 GW of installation of RE by 2022. In order to fulfil the set targets, a major portion of the commitments can be fulfilled from decentralized generation of Renewable Energy. India should start to explore uses of block chain technology in Renewable Energy Sector, the same has been unveiled by the energy distribution firm Tata Power, in partnership with India Smart Grid Forum and Australian technology firm Power Ledger, and has launched a first-of-its-kind peer-to-peer solar energy trading project in Delhi.
As per this initiative of Tata Power, an end total of about 150 sites that include Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited’s (TPDDL’s) locations, along with their actual customers with the capacity of solar generation (i.e., prosumers) will be using the platform to sell their excess energy to other residential and commercial sites in a dynamic pricing environment, with benefits from P2P energy trades. Such kind of initiatives in the field is also related to certain initiatives of the Government of India to accomplish its target set forth under the Paris Agreement. This initiative has been aligned with two major projects of the Government of India, namely, International Solar Alliance, herein this initiative will incentivise prosumers by giving them access to the market where they can sell their surplus energy. This will further scale up adoption of grid connected RTPV among customers, and National Strategy in Blockchain (initiative by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology), it is a P2P Energy Trading Project aims to bring the revolutionary blockchain technology to the Indian Power Sector.
On the other hand, when we look at China, as of 2019, it has been regarded as the world’s largest energy consumer and roughly emitting 30% of world’s total carbon emissions. However, the aim of the Chinese government is to ensure sustainable development and a circular economy, so, in order to achieve the same, the Chinese plan is to upgrade its traditional industries and reform its energy sector. As we are moving towards a consumer-oriented energy transition, which is rapidly advancing and the users therein often require energy supply and management to be smarter, cleaner and more sustainable than ever before, whereas the traditional energy companies in China are beset by centralisation and poor market liquidity and is therefore, monopolized by a few power giants that build the power grid far from urban areas, increasing the cost of electricity. Thus, the existing system cannot handle the complex transaction requests, the business and profit models are no longer suited for the sustainable development and circular economy.
Transactive Grid, the world’s first energy trading program based on blockchain, was built in New York in April 2016 by LO3 Energy and Consensus Systems. LO3 Energy has another program, Brooklyn Microgrid, which closely cooperates with Transactive Grid to combine the payment system and distribution grid infrastructure. Through blockchain technology and smart contracts, surplus electricity can be sold to neighbouring units in the network. Thus, users can trade electricity energy without public power companies or a central grid. LO3 Energy had hoped to prove that a local smart energy trading system is better than a traditional top–down centralized energy system.
As a result of such requirements, The Commission, which is the state body overseeing economic development, is partnering with State Grid Corporation as well as the Southern Power Grid Corporation and the two power trading exchanges in Beijing and Guangzhou to develop a renewable platform and market rules for green energy trading. In a statement, the Commission points to the several reasons that emerged in its investigations that indicate the time is ripe for the initiative. One is a demand from enterprises, with some indicating a willingness to pay more for green power. Another is a willingness to build a renewable trading marketplace. Others are the availability of the blockchain technology and the demonstration that trading can be organized.
Renewables trading is among the most widely implemented use cases of blockchain in the energy sector, with projects across the globe. State Grid has previous blockchain experience with projects to the Chinese firm Hyperchain (Hangzhou Qulian Technology) to develop a blockchain IoT deployment solution and another with Wanchain (Guangzhou Wanglu Technology) to develop a data management solution. Thus, the aspects that would be investigated in this pilot include the trading organization, scheduling, settlement and price mechanisms among others to provide services that are user friendly and reflect the full value of the power being traded.
However, when we talk about inducting blockchain into the energy sector, particularly solar energy, it comes with its own set of problems. Therein, the smart grids will require everyone to share their information, a move that many companies and private citizens alike have refused to do. Blockchain will need everyone on common ground in order to truly reach its potential as a global tool, but until then, start-ups will continue to pioneer the technology and help small communities and developing nations take charge of the clean energy revolution.
There is no denying the fact that blockchain will surely help make energy trading more trustworthy. India, at one hand, has begun with the implementation of such P2P trading with first blockchain energy trading being unveiled fairly recently, China, on the other hand, has went ahead to set up the third such power grid and the first one in terms of participation of The Commission in alliance with the State grid. In order to meet the target of Net zero emissions, set by India, for itself, it needs to buckle up as the way to preserve the environment and boost the economy at the same time, lies in the development of green technology. Being a tropical country, India has a great opportunity to explore solar energy to its fullest potential and involve the common man into trading the excess energies.
Using Blockchain in Agriculture: India vs. China
Blockchain-based solution that eliminates the need for a secure centralized structure, intermediaries, and information exchanges, optimizes performance, and complies with a high level of safety and integrity, and has been found effective in agricultural product traceability. As a result, farm-to-fork food safety and quality certification have become increasingly important. Increasing threats to food security and contamination have created an enormous need for a revolutionary traceability system, an important quality control mechanism that ensures adequate food supply chain product safety.
Agriculture and food supply chains are well interlinked, since the products of agriculture almost always are used as inputs in some multi-actor distributed supply chain, where the consumer is usually the final client. Blockchain in supply chain management is expected to grow at an annual growth rate of 87% and increase from $45 million in 2018 to $3,314.6 million by 2023 (Chang, Iakovou and Shi 2019).
Figure 2 depicts a simplified example of food supply chain digitization enabled by blockchain technology. The digital flow layer (middle layer) exists beneath the physical flow layer (top layer), and it is made up of various digital technologies (i.e., QR codes, RFID, NFC, online certification and digital signatures, sensors and actuators, mobile phones etc.). The Internet/Web serves as the infrastructure for communication. Every action performed along the food chain is recorded to the blockchain (bottom layer of Figure 2), which serves as an immutable means of storing information that is accepted by all participating parties. The information captured during each transaction is validated by the food supply network’s business partners, resulting in agreement. After each block becomes validated, it is added to the chain of transactions (as Figure 2 shows), becoming a permanent record of the entire process. At every stage of the trajectory of food (defined with numbers 1-6 in Figure 2), different technologies are involved and different information is written to the blockchain, as described below for each of these stages:
- Provider: Information about the crops, pesticide and fertilizers used, machinery involved etc. The transactions with the producer/farmer are recorded.
- Producer: Information about the farm and the farming practices employed. Additional info about the crop cultivation process, weather conditions, or animals and their welfare is also possible to be added.
- Processing: Information about the factory and its equipment, the processing methods used, batch numbers etc. The financial transactions that take place with the producers and also with the distributors are recorded too.
- Distribution: Shipping details, trajectories followed, storage conditions (e.g., temperature, humidity), time in transit at every transport method etc. All transactions 7 between the distributors and also with the final recipients (i.e., retailers) are written on the blockchain.
- Retailer: Detailed information about each food item, its current quality and quantity, expiration dates, storage conditions and time spent on the shelf are listed on the chain.
- Consumer: At the final stage, the consumer can use a mobile phone connected to the Internet/Web or a web application in order to scan a QR code associated with some food item, and see in detail all information associated with the product, from the producer and provider till the retail store.
China’s Inclination towards Blockchain for Agriculture and its allied sectors:
Food integrity refers to the consistent exchange of food throughout the supply chain. Each actor must provide complete information about the origin of the goods. This is a major concern in China, where rapid growth has created serious transparency issues. Increased traceability can improve food safety and integrity. Food companies can use blockchain to reduce food fraud by quickly identifying and tracking outbreaks back to their sources. Recent research has predicted that the food traceability market will be worth $26.1 billion by 2025..
In China, now consumers who want to feel good about their chickens have another option: free-range and organic birds raised with an anklet that tracks and reports every aspect of their lives.
All information related to the chicken can be verified in the blockchain statement of ZhongAn Technology, the tech incubator of the Chinese insurance company ZhongAn, which developed the technology and is progressively towards the same. The chicken’s age and location, how far it walks each day, air pollution, the quality of the water it drinks, when it’s quarantined, when it’s slaughtered, and other details, are all recorded in the blockchain, the same secure digital ledger used in cryptocurrency transactions.
By providing better data, the authentication and traceability system could also help reduce risk for companies that finance and insure farms. The rural market is massive, as is the rural financial market. Due to a lack of data accumulation in the agriculture industry, financial activities are costly and risky.
Extensively the application of blockchain is being utilized for crops and other animals. It has been a cascading effect considering the Food integrity and its security. Trying to improve wastage and improve better supervision over the food supply chain. In case any discrepancies are found it could be easily traced back and either could be rectified or a hefty penalty could be put in place.
One can scan QR codes to learn more about the animals involved, their nutrition, slaughtering and meat packaging dates, and the results of food safety tests. To ensure that its chickens are truly free-range, the GoGochicken company employs an ankle bracelet that tracks the chickens’ movements and behaviour using GPS tracking, and this data is then made available to customers via the web.
India’s Inclination towards Blockchain for Agriculture and its allied sectors:
Agriculture, along with its allied sectors, is the most important source of income in India, employing nearly 70% of rural households. India is also one of the top 15 major agricultural exporters, indicating that there is clearly room to expand employment opportunities across the country.
With India’s agrarian economy, blockchain technology will undoubtedly be a game changer, providing tamper-proof, accurate data about farms, inventory, credit scores, and food tracking. As a result, farmers no longer have to rely heavily on paperwork/files to record and store critical data.
India is pushing itself towards gaining a momentum in Blockchain and has been publishing articles to showcase the leverage of it. Below picture depicts the Country-wise trend and its inclination towards the fast-growing technology.
Along with being one of the leading publishers for Agriculture tech, India is performing well in the funding growth of the agritech sector. It is fair to consider that not all the agritech funding is being utilized for Blockchain tech. However, it is the mix of technology which is helping Indian start-ups to align with the supply chain management. The AI and Blockchain-enabled platform are regarded as India’s fastest-growing e-Marketplace, providing a one-stop solution for post-harvest technologies.
Impact on Economy
Environment vs. Economy is a debate for all ages and has become more relevant with the degradation of the environment. It has been fifty years since the Stockholm Declaration was made in 1972. How far along have we come from then to now in 2022, is a question that everyone must ask themselves. The development of green tech is another milestone in trying to achieve the dream of sustainable development and getting one step closer to make it a reality. Blockchain is another feather in the cap. By ensuring transparency in all transactions, it is contributing to cleaner, smarter and greener technology that will not only preserve the environment but ensure that the economy also sees a boost.
A system of next-generation identifiers, including barcodes and radio frequency identification devices (RFID) tags, binding with blockchain, to digitally secure the transfer of goods throughout the global economy.
India has begun expanding its wings through providing an e-marketplace for farmers using Blockchain technology. Agri 10x is the prime example of the same. As of 2021, it is aggressively working towards boosting its GMV to INR 1,000 crore in the next two years. It has already crossed INR 100 crore GMV in less than a year. Serving at a digital platform, it offers transparency, traceability and sustainability. Leveraging blockchain, the platform enables seamless transactions between supply chain participants that helps bring down the cost significantly. The platform provides simplified payment solutions to ease the trade of agricultural products and services.
In China, the agricultural industry is characterized by small farms and low digitization, making it difficult to achieve standardization and economies of scale. Furthermore, the industry also faces the problem of an aging and dwindling farming workforce. That explains the Chinese government’s plans to pilot a digital village at the beginning of 2020.
During the mobile internet boom of the last decade, Chinese farmers have been quick to adopt a digital lifestyle, using mobile payments and online video entertainment. In some areas, the extent to which villagers are connected to the internet is greater than in large cities. Now, the application of cutting-edge digital technologies to agriculture is the new frontier.
Suggestions and Conclusions
Whenever a new idea comes to the forefront, it comes with its own set of positives and negatives. While the positives advance our approaches, the negatives tend to slow down the progress. Green technology when merged with blockchain, creates a world full of possibilities where conservation and development can go hand in hand. However, it is pertinent to point out certain lacunas, which are the reason behind any hindrances and obstruction that can happen while implementing green tech with blockchain.
First and foremost, as it is a fairly new field, still in its nascent stage, research and innovation along with its funding should be the major concern. The funding must not only come from government sectors but also private entities which are interested in incorporating this technology.
Another aspect that needs focus is connectivity and accessibility of the means of communication. For this technology to work up to its fullest potential, it is important to ensure that it reaches to every nook and corner, in rural, rurban and urban areas. For both, Energy trading and Agritech, reaching its target audience, i.e., households and farmers respectively, is the need of the hour. They can only be achieved, when internet access and connectivity is strengthened. The pandemic has shown the importance of internet connectivity and thus, it is high time that they be ensured.
At the same time, only connectivity and accessibility will not mitigate the problems, digital literacy among the common masses must also be ensured. For this, various stakeholders, like the concerned industries, universities and educational institutions must join hands and work in collaboration to educate everyone about this boom.
Helping small-scale farmers to get better reach, i.e., beyond the local APMCs, to ensure that Agritech is well decentralised and that the benefits of such technological revolution reach in the hands of the everyone concerned and not just a few.
Furthermore, Blockchain can help keep track of a person’s financial state, thus providing help and support based on their credibility would be easier and the role of the middlemen would be completely eliminated.
Technological Infrastructure that supports such transactions and trading, is something that the economy is looking forward to and one of the ways through which this support can come from is the policy route of the government. Therefore, from a policy perspective, various actions can be taken, such as encouraging the growth of blockchain-minded ecosystems in agri-food chains, supporting the technology as part of the general goals of optimizing the competitiveness and ensuring the sustainability of the agri-food supply chain, as well as designing a clear regulatory framework for blockchain implementations.
Unlike what the government did with crypto by imposing a tax of 30% the same should not be done by using blockchain in different sectors to increase its horizon. If such a step is taken, it would lead to completely undesirable outcomes and all the work done so far would be a waste of time, money and energy.
Therefore, Green tech and Blockchain are the tools of today and tomorrow. These technologies can help the world move along the idea of sustainable development, something that has been understood as the need of the hour.
21st century has been labelled as the century of Asian markets. Both India and China, are seen as the two most promising technological giants, who have begun their journey in this field. It will not be justified to put one over the other as they both are still very much into theoretical rather than practical in the field where green tech is merged with blockchain. However, in terms of theoretical research as well, China is at the top most position, whereas India is at the 5th position. Even in terms of energy trading, India has begun with its pilot project whereas China is setting up the third grid in the country. As the field is still fresh, India has a lot of potential outgrow China, provided it takes correct decisions and implements the same. Red-tapism will only slow down the growth and put India further back. The time is ripe and we have already started seeing the fruits of the work.
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