Smart Grid, Smart Tech and Smart Communities: Another ground-breaking initiative from Blueskin
The Blueskin Energy Network’s soft launch was in December 2017 and on Friday, 6th April, the first customers were
connected to the Blueskin Energy Network (BEN).
BEN aims to democratize the energy network helping people to use more local, green and/ or cheaper energy in a sharing
economy. BEN helps people share power, peer to peer within the community to increase resilience. It is a new energy
concept as BEN matches those with the capacity to share local generation with those with the capacity and desire to
change when they use power. BEN aims to understand member’s personal preferences and provides advice as to when is the
best time to use power to meet those goals.
This ground-breaking community initiative is now possible due to mega shifts in digital technology, the assets people
own and the social aspirations of society. As Jamie Silk from P2Power says, Friday was the launch of “a really exciting
story connecting people, their personal aspirations and the energy system through digital technology”. He believes “the
new consumer technologies will enable social change connecting people with peer to peer trading, the sharing of our
personal capacities to generate or change when we use power, and the ability to live by our personal and social values.”
The first customers seem to agree. Toby White and Janet Rhodes of Waitati are “proud to be part of BEN” and enthusiastic
about community owned and local renewable electricity generation. Fellow Waitatian Hilary Rowley loves the economics of
a peer-to-peer service with extras: “By selling our power locally we can get around being paid a meagre 8c per unit of
power we generate and can share our power with our neighbours. So it is a big win/win”.
But the Blueskin Energy Network is not only about cheaper power, or local power. It is also about enabling the
installation of clean tech such as wind turbines, solar panels, and grid tied electric vehicles while also better
balancing the grid as more renewables come online.
BEN has been established by Blueskin Energy Ltd (BEL) a charitable company owned by the Blueskin Resilient Communities
Trust. Customers join BEN by signing up to BEN’s service provider, P2, and PowerNet is the local network owner. BEN is
not just for Blueskin residents but open to anyone on the Otago JV network.
Blueskin Energy Limited’s project manager Scott Willis is passionate about the potential to “democratize the grid” while
optimising “efficiency, flexibility and resilience”. “We win on carbon emissions, on building community resilience and
on reducing cost as well” he says.
If the Blueskin model takes off, not only will local residents and the local grid become more resilient. It is actually
a community-led energy revolution underway, addressing climate change and fuel poverty to boot.