AMA Highlights – Energy Web Foundation
By Daniel Dal Bello, Director.
May 31, 2020 – 12 min read.
On Friday 29 May, we welcomed both Walter Kok and Micha Roon of the Energy Web Foundation (‘EWF’) into the Hillrise Capital Telegram chat for an AMA. Walter is the CEO, and Micha the CTO of the EWF.
Prior to joining the EWF and for three decades, Walter has held various leadership positions at global organizations including ING Bank and Vodafone. Micha is an experienced software engineer and blockchain architect, bringing a uniquely valuable in-depth technical expertise and business understanding to the EWF.
The EWF was co-founded in 2017 by globally-renowned sustainable energy think-and-do tank, the Rocky Mountain Institute and blockchain technology developer Grid Singularity. The EWF is a non-profit organization working to accelerate a low-carbon, customer-centric electricity system, intrinsically driven by blockchain tech.
In 2019, the EWF launched the Energy Web Chain (‘EWC’) to create the world’s first public, open-source, enterprise-grade blockchain tailored specifically to the energy sector.
In this post, we have compiled key questions and answers from our AMA event.
Daniel Dal Bello
Walter and Micha, could you give some brief insight into your individual backgrounds prior to the EWF and your journey into your current roles today?
Hello all, I am Walter Kok, once educated as an electrical engineer. I am the CEO of Energy Web.
It is interesting to be leading a company in a decentralized ecosystem. Basically, I am a tribe leader of the rapidly increasing ‘Energy Web Tribe’ that is committed to our mission. Over the last three decades I have lead teams in global organizational environments, including in the fields of fintech, telecommunications, and information technology (‘IT’). Prior to joining the EWF originally as COO, I was COO of bank-wide operations at ING Bank, and Vodafone Global Enterprise. I did similar engagements at BT, NEC Corporation and several startups.
My job now is the best though, I have to confess.
Hi I’m Micha, CTO of the Energy Web Foundation. Trained as a software engineer and now having over 20 years of practical experience delivering production-grade software for big organizations mainly in the financial industry.
My interest in blockchain in general and Ethereum, in particular, dates back to 2015 when I was struck by the power of the smart-contract paradigm and recognized that this would change the world. Since then I have contributed to many blockchain projects: 2 asset-backed coins, decentralized asset management, a decentralized ad network, a crypto document management system and a decentralized liquidity network.
My role now, as CTO of the Energy Web Foundation, and the Share&Charge Foundation is to de-carbonize the grid and enable seamless electric vehicle (‘EV’) charging.
Daniel Dal Bello
The EWF has been in existence now for around three years. During that time you’ve built a testnet on Ethereum’s network, launched your own purpose-built test networks (Tobalaba, then Volta) specifically for the energy sector, and in mid-2019 launched the Energy Web Chain.
I’d like to understand more about the dApps that are live now on the Energy Web Chain and the numerous others waiting to migrate across from test networks. Could you talk to us about which dApps and use cases you’re excited about?
Our strategy is to focus on two main areas for applications.
One is on certificates of origin, and the other is all around integrating green energy assets into the grid–BUT any Ethereum app can run on our chain, and our members are developing a lot. As we are decentralized and open, we do not know exactly what is going on in this respect.
Let me take away some confusion: the EWC is its own chain with its own validators set. The EWC is validated by a group of big names in energy and several startups. Our members are building some great applications too.
One question for me. I noticed you said that any Ethereum app can be run on the EWC. Is the plan always to focus on the energy markets or are you planning on expanding into other sectors and industries in the future? i.e. health, AI, manufacturing, logistics, etc.
The EWC is a public chain, validated by corporate actors. This is a first in the blockchain world. We believe it will be instrumental to getting blockchain applications into the hands of end-users. Anything can be built on top of the EWC but we’re focusing on energy applications. The identity layer in particular might be useful in other industries.
Hi everybody! I have seen somewhere about EWT [Energy Web Token] being one of the projects approved by the SEC [U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission]?
Regarding regulatory aspects, for us to create impact, regulatory compliance (both energy and financial) is a must. We are building real solutions that connect to the electricity grid leveraging the Energy Web Chain. Because we operate globally we have directly reviewed the Energy Web project with multiple regulators in different jurisdictions including financial regulators in Switzerland (via FINMA) and the U.S. (via the SEC). EWT has real utility on the Energy Web Chain (and by extension EW-DOS) making it a non-security token in the eyes of U.S. regulators. On the Role of the Rocky Mountain Institute and Grid Singularity, they both initiated this more than three years ago and gathered the first 12 corporates to start the journey.
“EWT has real utility on the Energy Web Chain (and by extension EW-DOS) making it a non-security token in the eyes of U.S. regulators.”
What is your standpoint on digital identities and how they may impact the use of the EWC?
We implemented a DID [decentralized identifier] library based on the W3C standard. We believe every IoT device needs an identity and there are billions of them. This will have a big impact. You can check out the early work here.
Daniel Dal Bello
I’d like to have some discussion around the token associated with your blockchain—the EWT. What fundamental role and “real utility” does the token have in the ecosystem and how does token derive value for your various stakeholders?
Having such incredible names associated with the EWF and actively validating the network suggests you have had a favorable response from a regulatory standpoint—which you’ve just confirmed, through your talks with the SEC and FINMA.
The EWT has a lot of utility in our decentralized tech stack. Like Ethereum, it is used to pay for gas. Also all the assets need EWT to participate in the energy markets/dApps.
Daniel Dal Bello
Could you please elaborate on what an ‘asset’ is in the context of EW for those unfamiliar?
An energy asset can be an electric car, a photovoltaic installation, a home battery, but also a water heater or anything consuming a big amount of energy.
How does the team perceive retail investors/EWT token holders? Where do you see value in ‘us’ and what could we do to support your work most effectively?
Our vision is that your assets (an electric vehicle, for example) will use EWT to transact—not retail customers. Instead, energy businesses (like utilities, aggregators, and retail electricity providers) will be the ones managing EWT to pay Energy Web validators for the services delivered by the network. We are not and have never been focused on retail investors–we are in the business-to-business market.
I have a question about your financials which I know are not usually being shared as there are requirements to do that but I still try! How many years/months does EWF have runaway for? Is there other revenue sources than a yearly fee from your ecosystem members? Are you looking to hire more people anytime soon or have you hired more people recently?
You are right, we do not give details, but I can tell you this. I have never worked in a startup before that has such great support from so many large and well-funded corporates around the world. I do not have many sleepless nights.
Your use of DIDs and W3C standards are integral to your whole design, can you tell us more about how you might use Polkadot’s parachain architecture in the future (especially in light of Gavin Wood & Grid Singularity’s blockchain work going on at the moment), and are you exploring also its wild, canary cousin, Kusama?
We’re looking into multiple scaling options. Polkadot is one of them. We will need parachains (or shards) as many governments want to be in control of their own data but also: onboarding a billion devices would take centuries on our current chain. Energy is a strategic industry, there is a lot of politics involved.
What exactly are you doing with Baseline Protocol?
We’re mainly observing the development. Baseline [Protocol] is very similar to our EW-DOS vision, so there is a natural collaboration opportunity.
Walter, It seems that the automotive sector lends itself perfectly to Energy Web’s use case and tech offering. Are there plans for significant partnerships in the future in this sector, especially given the very recent Vodafone partnership?
Spot on Brad, the automotive industry will be power plants on wheels. Power plants that can move around and provide flex on different parts of the grid. Vodafone is well established in the automotive market, so in the future it would be an over-the-air upgrade of the SIM and the EV can have an identity on our chain. Also have a look at this.
Are there any other major partners coming over the course of the next year, and what milestones are you most excited about completing this year?
There are many partners lined up. This is essential for making the energy transition happen. more partnerships in IoT, app development, and also finance (assets should be able to pay in $ too). I have learned in my career not to disclose milestones as I like to have an easy life.
The technical milestones this year will be an MVP for the EW-DOS which will allow anyone to create a fully decentralized application based on identity, messaging, storage, and blockchain. All anchored to the EWC. I hope we can achieve this breakthrough by the end of 2020.
I noted this voluntary milestone of Micha’s.
Can you comment on why PoA [Proof-of-Authority] is attractive to the enterprise sector in terms of being a “lean energy consumer”? Certainly a greener option than PoW [Proof-of-Work], which makes sense in your context and agenda.
PoA is indeed green. But there is another very strategic element for PoA in our case. We operate in regulated markets and in order to roll out a decentralized architecture you have to work with parties that are trusted today. Otherwise, it is a nice idea, not a real project in a country. Over time when markets mature and blockchain is as normal as the internet, other validators will come into the ecosystem, that is my expectation.
“We operate in regulated markets and in order to roll out a decentralized architecture you have to work with parties that are trusted today.”