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AMA Highlights – Energy Web Foundation

By 31-May-2020 No Comments

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?

Walter Kok
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.

Micha Roon
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?

Walter Kok
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.

Micha Roon
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.

@Infectedwhale
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.

Micha Roon
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.

@vizuaLz
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]?

Walter Kok
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.”

Julian Rundio
What is your standpoint on digital identities and how they may impact the use of the EWC?

Micha Roon
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.

Walter Kok
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?

Micha Roon
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.

@Utopia_2030
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?

Walter Kok
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.

@Sumtsumratata
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?

Walter Kok
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.

@BlockchainBrad
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?

Micha Roon
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.

Pumpkin
What exactly are you doing with Baseline Protocol?

Micha Roon
We’re mainly observing the development. Baseline [Protocol] is very similar to our EW-DOS vision, so there is a natural collaboration opportunity.

@BlockchainBrad
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?

Walter Kok
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.

@Infectedwhale
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?

Walter Kok
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.

Micha Roon
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.

Walter Kok
I noted this voluntary milestone of Micha’s.

@BlockchainBrad
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.

Walter Kok
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.”

@rattler9uk
Is Tesla a future hope to be a part of this project?

Walter Kok
We hope to.

@BlockchainBrad
From Germany, to Spain, to Thailand, to Australia, there are literally countless developments and use case implementations. Governments and countries are getting directly involved with Energy Web right now, which excite you the most at the moment? Can you hint to others in the pipeline?

Walter Kok
I can, but I will not do it.

@BlockchainBrad
Haha, I had to try Walt!

Micha Roon
We’re working on a worldwide presence and are most excited to get to the African continent where we have no presence yet.

@Utopia_2030
In the blockchain-space everything is around speculation. Not a single project with utility is driving the value of their network up significantly. The first project doing this will become historically important one day. Is there a chance that EWT is going to be that project making history? We feel that usage could start really soon and will kick off a fully autonomous economy in which every blockchain fan is looking forward to.

Walter Kok
I think it is not about making history, if you are used to working with enterprises–like a lot of us are–then you know you have to deliver. If you do not, they will not engage with you. So for us it is very normal to deliver, everybody should do that in the blockchain-space. Same evolution as with the internet hype in 2000. We exist because of our ecosystem.

@BlockchainBrad
When I spoke with Jesse today, we talked about the concept of co-opetition in light of the Ethereum public permissionless platform and related startups. We talked about how 2020-2030 is all about a multi-platform, multi-chain approach that will undoubtedly include Energy Web. There are so many synergies between what you have spent years as a team building and something like Ethereum (but of course you are energy specific). Is the idea of co-opetition apt here (especially when Polkadot is so linked with Web3 Foundation too)?

Micha Roon
We believe that there should not be a “winner takes all” mentality and that everyone benefits from cooperation. We plan to allow users with identities from Sovrin to participate in EW-DOS for example.

@Horetore
Regarding the DIDs, are you working with Sovrin?

Micha Roon
We have our own implementation but integration with Sovrin is on the roadmap.

@BlockchainBrad
Finally from me, while DeFi is the broader, lofty goal, is enterprise blockchain the future? Or rather is the integration of public blockchain into the corporate world a given?

Walter Kok
For me it is the same evolution as the internet. If you introduce new technology into an enterprise, you are basically putting the career of the CIO at risk. So they will always start safe. That used to be private internets, private clouds, and now private blockchains. But you cannot have a private blockchain, that is a database. So over time everybody will move to open and public as that is where innovation will happen at scale.

Micha Roon
Blockchain is a tool for building trust. It reduces transaction costs and makes collaboration more efficient. These are the kinds of attributes that attract corporates.

Daniel Dal Bello
The buzz of this week has been your newly announced relationship with Vodafone, one of the most significant names in telecommunications. I’m curious to understand more about the details of this partnership from both sides and what you look forward to in this relationship. What parallels can we draw on between telecommunications and energy systems? I assume your past with Vodafone has been helpful here, Walter?

Walter Kok
There are a lot of parallels between the energy system transformation and that in telecommunications. Devices at the edge are getting smarter (EV, solar, thermostats). This is exactly what happened in telephony from wired phones, to wireless, to smartphones. So the infrastructure provider needs to change. Telecommunications companies did, now energy utilities have to do that.

Micha Roon
We’re working on integrating the “Secure SIM” product from Vodafone with the EW-Flex and EW-Origin toolkits. The Secure SIM will hold the private key for the IoT identity which will then participate in the energy market.

Daniel Dal Bello
I want to touch on some of the incredible international stakeholders in your network who are the validators securing the Energy Web Chain. For example: Shell, TEPCO, Engie, Tenaska, Acciona, APG AG, and many, many more.

Without a doubt this is one of the most impressive consortiums in blockchain today.

What do you feel is attractive about the EWF that appeals to these large corporates and what are some of the key value drivers in these relationships?

I understand each relationship is unique, more curious about some of the high-level core drivers.

Walter Kok
Basically we operate as an ecosystem, so our members join because of the ecosystem they are entering. We do a lot of knowledge sharing but more importantly we build open-source for their use cases. Which they can re-use for their own use cases, and that can the be used again etc. The future of software is open-source, even Microsoft declared that recently.

@BlockchainBrad
In terms of being highly performant, you’re much more scalable, have lower transaction fees, lower latency, and are greener, than Ethereum, so wouldn’t those enterprise parties naturally select your EWC and complete tech stack over others? I mean, most enterprise competitors are not even out yet.

Ed Hesse is a huge supporter of Energy Web, how involved are the Berlin developers, as well as Grid Singularity, in Energy Web?

Micha Roon
Our main differentiator is the EW-DOS. We aim to build a full stack and have a plan to achieve it. But we already have members moving from Ethereum to the EWC.

Walter Kok
Ed is a foundation council member, not sure who the Berlin developers are but we have a team in Berlin and they are very good and engaged. We also help Grid Singularity, they are building D3A on our chain and need our EW-DOS.

@BlockchainBrad
So basically, you are NUMERO UNO in the blockchain-based enterprise energy market and you are coming out with a network that is making waves all around crypto town! Clearly you are here to stay! Congrats, looking forward to watching you build into the energy-enterprise blockchain beast of the decade!

Walter Kok
Thanks Brad, we are all very excited too. And humble as we are only so successful because of the support of our members who are pushing this innovation to de-carbonize the grid.

@wooky321
There was some documentation on your website regarding the setup of price oracles with Chainlink. Is Chainlink your preferred oracle framework or did you plan to integrate/look at other solutions? Have you spoken with the Chainlink team and is there anything you could share?

Micha Roon
Chainlink is indeed our preferred oracle framework. We are exchanging with the Chainlink team but it is informal as we don’t use their token. Oracles are a part of most blockchain projects and it is a very valuable tool.

@Infectedwhale
How many developers roughly do you have working in your ecosystem?

Walter Kok
That is the beauty of decentralization. We actually do not know. We have a brilliant tech team in the EWF, and then the people within our members and wider ecosystem. I can say it is getting bigger every week.

@Infectedwhale
What made you decide to venture from the position of COO at ING Bank to a startup blockchain company?

Walter Kok
I decided in 2016 that I wanted to make a real impact with blockchain. I love decentralization and seeing empowered people delivering in their strength. And I love cool tech. So when I got the call it was easy.

Daniel Dal Bello
Thank you so much to you both, this was one of my favorite AMAs.

Walter Kok
Thanks guys, good AMA.

Micha Roon
Thank you for your great questions and your interest.

The text in this summary has been adapted to correct grammatical errors and for presentation purposes. We thank both of our guests Walter and Micha for joining us for this AMA. For more information on the Energy Web Foundation, visit https://www.energyweb.org/.