Blockchain for Europe, a members-only organization that serves “companies driving innovation, integrity, and empowerment through blockchain,” partnered with IOTA Foundation, a non-profit that develops next generation protocols, to write a comprehensive report on the ways blockchain is supporting global sustainability efforts.
The report titled, “An Overview of Blockchain for Climate Action and Sustainability,” includes VIA’s Web3 solutions in a section that covers global climate change initiatives. The authors discuss Skylight and a more recent initiative for EVs:
For the full report and details written about VIA’s Skylight and ZKPs application for EVs, visit the Blockchain for Europe website. If you would like to speak directly with a member of our team about the ways we can help your organization using Web3, contact us!
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As we enter 2023, many of us in the energy space are eager to learn about the year’s outlook. If you are one of those people, you are in luck, because VIA’s CEO Colin Gounden was selected to share some valuable insights in a recent article by GreenBiz. This feature is a part of an extensive 2023 predictions piece in the transportation and mobility sector. The author of the article Vartan Badalian, GreenBiz Group Transportation Analyst, offers his thoughts on the race to net zero. Vartan highlights challenges, opportunities, and trends shared by world transportation leaders, such as Delta Air Lines, Lyft, Enel X Way, and many others.
While more than 20 experts provide their views, Colin’s comments are the only ones related to Web3 and also bidirectional charging:
We expect a dramatic rise in vehicle-to-building and vehicle-to-grid charging. With extreme weather, aging infrastructure and record supply chain shortages, the new generation of bidirectional electric vehicles will be a highly attractive source of energy flexibility for grid operators. Web3 technologies like zero-knowledge proofs will help verify that the electrons returning to the grid are from renewable sources while maintaining the privacy and anonymity of EV owners.
To read the full article on the GreenBiz website, click here. Curious to learn more or continue the conversation? Feel free to reach out to Colin directly on LinkedIn or email our team at email@example.com.
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One clear theme for VIA emerged in 2022: W3. What do we mean by that? VIA CEO Colin Gounden explains in under 60 seconds.
Examples of Living Our VIA Values in 2022
The VIA values are expressed not just in our day-to-day interactions and culture, but also as a guide for decisions we make as a company. Here’s a look back at how we integrated our values into everything we did in 2022.
Love in = Love out
Our Love in = Love out value is all about taking pride in what you do. VIAneers got to express their pride in our mission captured in the video below.
Be each other’s biggest fan
For the first time in three (3!) years, we hosted our semi-annual Power Up in person at our Montreal office. This was our largest company onsite ever with nearly 20 new VIAneers hired this year. VIAneers got together to share ideas, lend support, and brainstorm.
As a company located across multiple countries, we know that getting ALL of our VIAneers in one space was not an easy feat. In true VIA fashion we’d like to share a shout out to our People & Operations team for organizing and coordinating a fabulous multi-day onsite!
As a company at the forefront of cutting-edge Web3 technologies, not only do we need to be curious about what others are building in the community, but we share our own learnings as well.
In 2022, VIA was featured in a record number of podcasts. One standout interview was with Nasdaq’s TradeTalks, where VIA CEO, Colin Gounden, explained the connections between Web3, blockchain, the U.S. DOD, and clean energy in 6 minutes.
Not only were we giving talks remotely – we did it in person too! Chainlink invited VIA to speak at 2022’s must-attend Web3 event, SmartCon 2022. Didn’t get to be there? Luckily for you we have a 90 second summary of Colin’s talk!
Learning never goes out of style
At VIA, we’re always learning. We began the year by being one of only ten companies out of more than 100 applicants selected to join Wharton University’s Stevens Center Cypher Accelerator program, where we learned from the biggest names in blockchain such as a16z and Pantera.
Then, we ended the year with another innovative accelerator program, when we were selected as one of only nine companies out of more than 200 applicants to learn from industry leaders at the AWS Sustainable Cities Accelerator for Infrastructure.
The energy sector faces tough challenges in war, weather, and waning infrastructure globally. This year VIA rose to that challenge with the launch of Skylight, our Web3 platform to support ultra-fine grained demand response. Read about how we leverage zero-knowledge proofs, NFTs, and more in our latest white paper.
And that’s a selection of our 2022 milestones! We couldn’t have done it without the contributions and continued support of customers, partners, and of course our very own VIAneers.
In last year’s end of year reflection blog, we aimed to scale up in 2022 – all of which came true. After all, the best way to predict the future is to build it. In 2023, VIA is looking forward to announcing our contributions to communities big and small globally.
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Question: Why do we work with the U.S. Department of Defense, and what does it mean to have a top secret cybersecurity accreditation?
In short, our work with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is in direct support of our mission. Long-time readers will be familiar with our core mission to make communities cleaner, safer, and more equitable.
Of course, the DoD provides humanitarian assistance ranging from providing food and shelter to individuals impacted by natural disasters to evacuating refugees from war-torn regions.
There is also a strong tie to energy, where we focus almost all of our commercial solutions. As a nation, the U.S. is the single largest consumer of energy on the planet. Moreover, a whopping 77%1 of the energy consumption of the entire U.S. Government is by the U.S. DoD. In our view, if we aim to accelerate clean energy, then working with entities like the U.S. Air Force to adopt electric vehicles and move to renewables is a must.
In addition, working with DoD installations on the topic of electrification helps us learn about how we can support civilian communities. A military base is like a city, with tens of thousands of people, thousands of buildings, roads, and vehicles. How we make a base more efficient directly helps us make urban environments cleaner.
Last, but not least, there’s the cybersecurity element. The standards required for our Web3 platform to run at the DoD include things like zero-trust architecture, hardened containers, and continuous vulnerability checks. Everything we do at the DoD can be brought to our commercial customers who are equally concerned about cybersecurity attacks. In our view, there is no higher standard for cybersecurity, and therefore no better way to make our communities safer.
We’re just beginning our work at the DoD. We look forward to a long relationship to support the DoD’s mission and, at the same time, bring our knowledge to improve the lives of residents in local communities.
Are you a community transitioning to clean energy and electric vehicles? We’d love to hear from you regarding your journey and share your learning with others.
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Dara Tarkowski, host of the Tech on Reg podcast, published an article on DataDrivenInvestor, a media platform at the intersection of technology, finance, and society. The article covers key points from the recent podcast interview she did with VIA’s CEO, Colin Gounden. Dara commented that the conversation with Colin around technology and clean energy was both relevant and timely:
“In light of the global energy crisis and the perennial, devastating effects of climate change, it’s about time we talked about how technology can disrupt our reliance on fossil fuels.”
In the article, Dara breaks down the different insights Colin gave on data privacy, federal intelligence, energy data, and equity. One quote from Colin highlighted in the article that stands out is when he describes the reasons why local and national government agencies are investing in energy independence:
“I don’t know that it was the case a few years ago when we started, but it’s becoming the case now, for two major reasons. One is that since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, cyber attacks on the power grid infrastructure have gone up tenfold. That’s a big concern for local and national governments, because these attacks go much deeper than simply disabling popular websites. Modern life requires a lot of electricity, so protecting our grid is fundamental in our societal hierarchy of needs. If you lose the internet, it’s inconvenient and you kind of go back to life in 1976. If you lose power, you go back to life in 1876.”
To discover the second major reason Colin touches on, head over to the DataDrivenInvestor website and read the full article.
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As we outlined in our most recent blog post, there’s massive pressure across the board to reduce energy costs and prevent power blackouts. For governments, utilities, industry, and many consumers, improving how we consume and manage energy has become a number one priority to maintain grid reliability.
One area that’s about to do its part to relieve this pressure is blockchain. Colloquially called “The Merge,” a long awaited change in the validation (or “consensus”) mechanism on Ethereum will be finalized in September.
By most calculations, the new upgrade will use roughly 2000x less energy than the current consensus mechanism. Like most innovations these days (e.g., speech recognition, file compression, self-driving cars), math is at the heart of this improvement.
The key change is in the “proofs.” In a completely decentralized and anonymous network, how can you verify that a transaction between two parties actually happened, when there’s no intermediary? For example, if you and I are trading bitcoin and one of us disagrees on the amount that got transferred, who do we go to as an arbiter? Different mathematical proofs are used to verify which transactions are real. In short, the current proof (proof-of-work) is greedy for energy and the new proof (proof-of-stake) has the same level of validity but is much more energy efficient.
This is good news for everyone. Not only will one of the most popular blockchain mechanisms significantly reduce its carbon footprint, transactions (e.g., minting NFTs, smart contracts) will be significantly cheaper as well. The timing couldn’t be better. As we’ve written about, the use of smart contracts and Zero-Knowledge Proofs have huge potential to support the transition to clean energy.
You’ll have seen a lot of blogs and posts from VIA recently about our work in Zero-Knowledge Proofs. We also use an energy efficient proof-of-stake approach, although our work is focused on creating proofs for energy data. Connections to Ethereum through oracles were in our original 2018 white paper and part of our roadmap. Until The Merge, however, VIA has had a private blockchain dedicated to a few users (e.g., U.S. DOD) for secure, digital asset custodial tracking. With the changes to a cheaper, more energy efficient Ethereum, we plan on leveraging EVMs post-Merge, for our newest applications.
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To keep your lights on, the electric grid runs on one simple principle: power generation must be greater than power consumption.
While simple in principle, this is a challenge in practice. Consider the following headlines from the past 30 days:
Power is experiencing a perfect storm that’s impacting consumers the most (high prices and blackouts1). The challenges are global, although with regional variations.
In Europe, sanctions against Russia are limiting fuel supply that has led to fuel shortages, price spikes, and, worst of all, outages2. Compounding the supply issues is an aging generation and grid infrastructure. For example, France, normally self-sufficient or a net exporter of power, has 31 of its 57 nuclear power plants shut down due to unexpected maintenance3. This hits at a time when Europe and the U.S. are facing record heat waves4. As air conditioning is not as widespread in Europe, the bigger concern is that in a severe winter, when energy consumption generally doubles, outages will be even more widespread56.
In the U.S., sanctions against Russia have increased fuel prices but have not impacted supply directly. What’s more problematic is that while solar and wind generation is on the rise, connecting the power to the grid is slow, sometimes taking over a year, due to regulatory reviews and backlogs or the lack of energy capacity7. An aging infrastructure is also struggling to keep up with electrification. This is already having an impact in both New York and Texas as heat waves in the U.S. have been record breaking in temperature and duration.
To solve for this, many utilities are engaging their customers directly. The idea is that when consumers lower their electricity usage, they keep demand lower than supply. While many traditional businesses have done everything in their power to build a direct relationship with their customers, most consumers only know their utility through their monthly bill and when the lights go out.
Similar to how the first generation internet helped improve customer engagement (e.g., email, online billing, order tracking), we see Web3 as a way to bring grid operators closer to their customers through direct engagement on the transparency and tracking of their electricity usage. Technologies like Zero-Knowledge Proofs, smart contracts, and tokens can help grid operators incentivize, coordinate, and track individual consumer usage while maintaining complete data privacy.
You’ll have seen some of VIA’s tech stack already demonstrate some of this functionality through our blogs. In the coming weeks, we’ll be talking more about how VIA can provide a turn-key solution to power providers and grid operators.
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Following the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (or Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) last year, an additional $437 billion in Tuesday’s Inflation Reduction Act may seem like small change.
Unless you’re into the policy details like VIA is, one thing that may have gone under the radar is that there’s the potential to add billions of dollars to consumers’ wallets and purses each year. The reason isn’t the tax credits or incentives in the bill itself (although that’s certainly part of it).
There are two different pieces of legislation and regulation that are going to make this happen. The first is this week’s Inflation Reduction Act and second is FERC 2222. The rule came out a few years ago, but won’t go into full effect until 2023. This is a national (except Texas) rule that makes it possible for pretty much anyone to participate in the wholesale energy markets.
Wait, wholesale what?
In short, FERC 2222 says that consumers of a certain size (individually or aggregated together) can buy and sell energy at the same price that a multi-billion dollar company can. Up until now, most consumers were paid or saved whatever their going retail rate was (e.g., $0.15 to $0.30 per kWh) for reducing their consumption, shifting the time of their consumption, or selling their generation (e.g., solar) back to the grid. While not nothing, wholesale electricity rates can fluctuate dramatically. For example, during emergencies, wholesale prices can be MUCH higher (e.g., $20 per kWh). Those volatile, skyrocketing prices are becoming more frequent and lasting longer. We’ll actually be talking about the drivers of that volatility in an upcoming blog post.
The impact is that, by some estimates, a consumer could earn $500 to $1,000 (your mileage may vary) per year through various demand response programs. That’s with retail pricing. With wholesale rates, those cash payments will be significantly higher.
So that’s FERC 2222. What’s the connection to the Inflation Reduction Act?
Well, a lot of incentives are in place for consumers to upgrade to electric heat pumps, add solar, add EVs, and upgrade appliances. Anything new has the potential to be “smart.” That is, remote controlled so it can automate the process of turning on or off when needed. Like during an emergency.
The combination of new “smart equipment” purchased through the Inflation Reduction Act and FERC 2222 mean greater incentives and lower barriers to adoption (automated transactions instead of manual transactions).
If you follow the news, there’s been some backlash against the idea of having a company, like a utility, remote controlling the appliances in your home.
We agree. That’s why we believe so strongly in our new Web3 solution, Skylight.
Three key benefits of VIA’s Skylight value proposition are:
Make it as easy as swipe left / swipe right to agree / cancel your participation in a program, (i.e., the choice is yours) and maintain individual privacy – a terrific use case for zero-knowledge proofs
Leverage smart meters and smart devices to automate control – a great use for smart contracts
Enable real-time compensation and settlement for each consumers’ participation – a real-world use case for tokens
So, overall, we’re pretty excited about the combination of events playing out right now. For savvy consumers, there’s HUGE potential for additional income and you don’t even need your tax accountant to help you out.
Of course, we’re equally excited that the regulatory direction is in line with VIA’s overall mission to make communities cleaner, safer, and more equitable.
Stay tuned for more upcoming announcements from VIA on this topic.
The actual amount will vary by size of home, local tariffs, local grid topology, etc. In many instances, demand response happens through an aggregator who may take as much as 90% of the savings for their role as a middle man.
A demand response program is a program where electricity consumers agree to reduce their power consumption a certain number of times per contract period in return for financial compensation. A twist on this model is the Ford F-150, Duke Energy program. “Pilot incentives will reduce vehicle lease payments for program participants who lease an eligible electric vehicle (EV), including Ford F-150 Lightning trucks. In exchange, customers will allow their EVs to feed energy back to the grid – helping to balance it during peak demand.”
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Yes, we love chocolate, cheese, and clean mountain air. That (alone), however, is not why VIA is spending so much time in Switzerland. Switzerland is the leader in three areas core to VIA: clean energy, data privacy, and blockchain.
More than 190 countries around the world have pledged to reduce carbon emissions. Switzerland is one of the few that has legislation, a deadline, and active programs to move towards net zero. Not only is this commitment aligned with VIA’s mission, it enables VIA to actively support the clean energy transition and exactly where that transition is happening the fastest. As part of VIA’s commitment to energy and Switzerland, we’re pleased to have been admitted to the Association of Swiss Electrical Companies last week.
Arguably no country in the world has a stronger reputation for data privacy than Switzerland. The laws around data privacy continue to evolve and become stricter over time. By being aware of the leading edge of privacy regulations, VIA’s platform is in a position to support any jurisdiction.
Switzerland’s Crypto Valley is to blockchain what Silicon Valley is to software. With over 1,000 blockchain companies and one of the world’s first countries to enact crypto and blockchain legislation, Switzerland is an ideal location to lead blockchain initiatives. Earlier this year, VIA was admitted to the Swiss Blockchain Federation (see photo below). It’s in everyone’s interest to participate in an active innovation community that also has a clear regulatory framework.
Pictured above at the general assembly of the Swiss Blockchain Federation in Zurich: Ray Neubauer, Expansion Manager at VIA, Markus Riner, Head of Digitalization at VSE (Swiss Association of Electricity Suppliers), and Dr. Fabian Streiff, Head of Economic Development Agency of the Canton of Zurich.
If you’re interested in hearing more about how and why we chose Switzerland as our European headquarters, you can watch this ten minute video with our CEO, Colin Gounden being interviewed by the Swiss Ambassador to the U.S.
We’re excited to have Andrew Bright, former ABB executive and VIA’s advisor to our Swiss office, contribute to our blog. Read on to hear his commentary on VIA’s GDAC™ Transformers: 3-Minute Pilot, which was recently upgraded to maximize the value of transformer data while minimizing time.
Many industrial digitalization projects suffer from “Pilot Purgatory.” The pilots seemingly take forever and never end because no one can decide if they are a success or a failure. Since the term Pilot Purgatory was first coined a few years ago, much has been written about how to avoid it. However, the vast majority of this advice seems to involve throwing more resources, money and scale at the pilot, until well it no longer looks like a pilot but a full-scale roll-out. The logic is clear if the monthly cost of a pilot project is high enough – no one can afford to let the pilot continue indefinitely. How refreshing then, that VIA has come up with a radically different and frankly opposing approach for avoiding Pilot Purgatory.
Their new GDAC™ Transformers: 3-Minute Pilot takes just 3 minutes to complete once data is gathered. If this were a recipe, you would be allowed up to 27 minutes to source the ingredients and just 3 minutes to do the cooking. Resources, time and money are all minimized. After this experience, VIA hopes to have delivered a valuable summary of the health of one of your transformers. If this has proved insightful, the pilot has been a success, if not then GDAC™ may not be for you. Either way, the pilot will have been concluded.
With their 3-Minute Pilot, VIA aims to demonstrate three specific concepts:
show valuable insights about the health of one transformer and that the math really works;
show that valuable analysis can be conducted whilst keeping data private and confidential; and
provide an educational component about how VIA does what it does. VIA does more than provide recommendations, it also explains why & how a particular recommendation was made.
All three of these components are embedded in the 3-Minute Pilot. If you are interested in performing a full fleet analysis going back say 20 years, that’s more of a project and not the goal of this pilot. VIA’s 3-Minute Pilot is true to the spirit and literal about the term “proof-of-concept.” This seems to be an industry first and given the simplicity and radical reduction in resources, I hope that it becomes an industry standard approach.
If you are interested in learning more about VIA’s GDAC™ Transformers: 3-Minute Pilot and perhaps want to give it a try, feel free to contact us.
VIA’s 3-Minute Pilot provides valuable insights on the health of transformers in just 3 minutes.
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The International Energy Agency projects that 30% of all vehicles will be electric vehicles (EV) by 2030. This transition, at the intersection of electric power and mobility, combined with increased generation from renewable resources has the potential to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the years ahead. To make this happen, utilities who operate the distribution network need to understand how this new demand for electricity will affect smart grid assets. Our primary job at VIA is to help utilities navigate these shifts by understanding their data and fostering collaboration through our Global Data Asset Collaborative™ (GDAC™) program. As an example, VIA recently kicked off our first GDAC™ by focusing on transformers. Through this GDAC™, we are beginning to see that transformers are stressed by the switch to EVs and our focus will be on helping utilities find ways to keep these assets healthy over the coming years.
There are at least two things that make charging an EV different than, say, running a central AC unit. First, the power that needs to be delivered to an EV is around 20kW, which is four or five times the power required for a typical central AC unit, which ranges from 3-5kW. A “short-range” charge to power the EV so that its owner can commute could require around 40kWh, thus a “slow-charge” for a “short-range” car requires about two hours of charging. Powering large fleets of EVs will clearly require extending the capacity of current electricity distribution networks.
The second issue that makes charging an EV different is timing. The timing of EV charging events changes the daily load profile of the home, workplace, and in urban centers equipped with networks of charging stations. Transformers are generally able to run past their rated capacity so long as they are given ample time to cool overnight. That is changing as commuters return home after work to charge their vehicles, never allowing transformers that time to cool down, which can cause them to malfunction and in extreme cases, explode. EV charging events, because they demand so much power so quickly from the grid, can lead to shifts in voltages along the distribution network. This leads to wear and tear on tap changers and other voltage regulation mechanisms.
Utility asset managers need to understand which transformers in their fleet are most at risk as EV penetration increases. A recent study by researchers at Ohio State University illustrates what needs to be done to understand the effects EVs have on transformers and voltage regulators (“An Integrated Algorithm for Evaluating Plug-in Electric Vehicle’s Impact of the State of Power Grid Assets”). The authors have studied a representative sample of urban, suburban, and rural areas and tried to answer the question “What would happen to the distribution grid if each home had an EV?” To understand both the total load and the rapid charging behavior, the authors used actual distribution grid topology provided by American Electric Power (AEP) and simulated the behavior of the system as EV charging events are inserted into today’s “baseline” load demand. The authors find that suburban areas are expected to see the greatest stress, as it is assumed that, in urban areas, additional power will be provisioned by specific “fast-charging” stations while the suburban dwellers load will stress the transformers that serve their primary residences. In rural areas, the lower population density typically means that the transformers are not as heavily loaded as in a suburban area. Some authors predict long-term changes in mobility patterns that will increase the number of rideshare services (i.e., Uber). Rideshare cars are typically required to drive all day and would require longer charge times. This corresponds to the most aggressive scenario studied by the authors, in which case they expect insulator degradation to occur after just one year.The results illustrate the socio-technical complexities of planning the future smart grid and the need for detailed studies on how people are expected to use their vehicles.
As a highly-trained problem solver with deep scientific and computing expertise, I’m always hungry for tough problems to solve. There’s no doubt that integrating EVs into the smart grid is a tough problem. More importantly, it is a high-impact socio-technical problem that we as a society need to solve to transition to a greener future. Working together with the world’s largest utilities, VIA is in a position to help solve these problems, a privilege I am grateful for every day I go to work. At VIA, we have a company value, “Love in=Love out” which means that if you love what you are doing, you will do great work. I expect we will do great work in this area, and help our customers navigate the challenges of the EV revolution.
https://www.solvewithvia.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/EV-charge.jpg13652048viahttps://www.solvewithvia.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/VIA-Logo-header-300x101.pngvia2019-11-25 12:48:172022-11-16 02:24:26Understanding How EV Charging Behavior Affects Distribution Networks
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