Blockchain for energy might be the easy part: How do you communicate it?

Written by Michael Zdanowski, Head of Energy

Every month interest and excitement in blockchain grows. Nowadays it seems that there is a potential blockchain technology for every substrata of the economy.

At the London Blockchain Summit in June participants will be able to learn about blockchain’s applications across finance, insurance, logistics, utilities, media and entertainment. The FT has even reported about blockchain potentially reinventing dating. A particular favourite is blockchain for waste.

What we at Madano believe has been missing in the narrative so far is blockchain developers and the energy industry directly addressing a number of key communications challenges around the technology.

As every communicator will tell you, no matter how good your technology is, success will ultimately depend on the ability to communicate your offer and its benefits as succinctly as possible to key stakeholders – Government and regulators, business and industry, investors, media and the general public – and convince them that the technology will benefit society rather than exploit it.

For communicators in the energy space, blockchain throws up a number of challenges.

The first communications challenge is convincing key audiences that blockchain can really work in a relatively low value commodity sector like energy.

The many benefits of blockchain crypto-currencies are clear but is blockchain really the most efficient way to trade energy? Taking bitcoin as an example, won’t the blockchain transactions in fact stimulate huge energy demand and create knock-on problems for the sector?

While some investors have bought into blockchain for energy, it’s not clear that many of these fundamental questions in the technology have been answered in an open forum.

Secondly, there are already a multitude of blockchain for energy start-ups as well as large utilities developing blockchain, but how do these companies allay the fears that many will have about data in the blockchain? And how do you assign accountability if there’s a problem when no one is ‘in charge’ of validating transactions?

A blockchain by its nature is cyber-secure according to engineers, but public trust in tech companies is already declining given recent scandals about the misappropriation of data involving Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and more recently Amazon’s Alexa.

How often have we seen unhackable technology become hacked? Blockchain developers will at some point be forced to allay the legitimate fears of regulators that data might be hacked or gathered with potentially negative impacts on consumers. To date, this issue remains unanswered.

Thirdly, and most importantly, how do you communicate blockchain in energy to a non-tech savvy consumer audience that for the most part struggles to understand their existing energy bills?

We’ve seen only a few projects to date where blockchain developers have road-tested or even floated their ideas with consumers. For communicators, it is absolutely mission critical to get them onboard at the outset.

For this reason next week Madano is bringing together next week energy industry leaders – start-ups, utilities, energy firms, Government, media and academia – to discuss these issues.

As a teaser for our event, we’ve highlighted three basic communications tips for blockchain developers:

  • Get your story right and simplify – the most common feedback we hear from energy insiders (particularly journalists) is that blockchain narratives are too complex and convoluted. Strip back the detail. What’s the big issue that your technology addresses and secondly, what’s the most interesting thing you can say about your technology? Earn the right to talk about the detail and don’t assume that others immediately see the big picture that you do.
  • Differentiate – each and every blockchain company may differ but this is not how many of your key audiences perceive it. Make sure your audience knows exactly what you do, where your technology fits in and how it benefits them at every touchpoint (website, presentation, speaking platform). Be very clear in explaining how you are different from any other blockchain company.
  • Develop compelling content – there is a lack of compelling content showing how blockchain energy solutions can work and positively impact the wider energy system and people’s lives. Infographics, videos, animations and podcasts all help to tell your story in an interactive way. A 45 second explainer video is many times likely to be more impactful for many than a 20 page white paper. The consumer is ultimately everyone's audience.

Next week Madano will delve further into the challenges facing blockchain at its own blockchain for energy event where, with speakers such as Madeleine Cuff (Business Green), Matthew Williams (Faraday Grid), Damian Moore MP (Blockchain APPG) and Dr Jeff Hardy (Imperial College, London), we ask the energy sector is blockchain is a real gamechanger or a passing chimera?