Approximately 14 percent of the world’s population — about 1.1 billion people — had little to no access to electricity in 2017. There are another 600 million that suffer from brown-outs and ‘energy poverty’, which means their energy bill eats up to 40 percent of their household income.
Blockchain-based startup KWHCoin wants to provide affordable energy access to rural communities around the world, starting with the Caribbean and Africa.
“Currently, fossil fuel-driven energy policy is one of the primary reasons [for high prices]. We want to use renewable energy and the latest technology to combine them into a peer-to-peer platform,” founder Girard Newkirk tells Hypepotamus.
An avid historian and environmentalist, Newkirk dove into research about social and economic history in these communities. He found that one common attribute was strong peer-to-peer networks — things like neighbors trading crops for tools, for example, rather than exchanging currency.
Newkirk decided to build this concept into his software, allowing community members to buy energy from each other using tokens.
This way, if an individual has a solar or wind energy production infrastructure at their home, they can use KWHCoin to sell any extra energy to other members of their community.
The dashboard, available on desktop and through an app, displays a 25-mile zone map showing energy sources available for purchase through KWHCoin. Customers purchase tokens as the means of energy exchange.
The software also tracks energy data, generation, and consumption.
A 200-resident community in Sierra Leone has served as one of the pilots for KWHCoin. Three homes in the town have solar home systems, through which owners are monetizing using the platform.
The KWHCoin team has its eyes next on communities like Puerto Rico, which suffered incredible destruction after Hurricane Maria. They’re slated to launch on the island early next year.
And, they’re undergoing a pilot with Boston University and an artificial intelligence firm to gather behavioral insights from smart meter data.
The system could eventually be set up to gather energy data from all over the world, says Newkirk.
To generate revenue, the North Carolina-based SaaS startup sees municipalities and local government agencies as the customer, charging them to implement the system in the community.
After raising seed funding in 2017, Newkirk says that they’re back in fundraising mode, looking for capital earmarked to build out the energy infrastructure that’s key for them to expand their software model.
“We have a capacity much larger than when we initially started the company,” says Newkirk. “We’ll continue focusing on the Caribbean and Africa and look for domestic project opportunities in rural areas.”