It was during her previous career in finance that Jemma Green discovered her passion for sustainability. After calling it quits at JP Morgan, Jemma came up with the idea to open up an energy market that would allow users to trade renewable energy between one another.
The Power Ledger platform was founded shortly after in 2016.
Jemma’s Journey into blockchain
Tell us the story behind your first experience with blockchain tech.
I had vaguely heard of blockchain in relation to Bitcoin a few years ago, but I was only introduced to its full capabilities just before Power Ledger was founded in 2016.
In 2013, I was on a 12-month hiking sabbatical when I began formulating an idea of developing an eco-village. I returned to Perth to complete a PHD in disruptive innovation and found that apartments in Australia didn’t have easy access to renewable energy.
I decided to try and solve this problem by opening up the energy market so people could trade energy directly between one another, a function that was limited by existing technologies.
In 2016, I was introduced to two blockchain developers, including Power Ledger co-founder John Bulich. I realized the technology could facilitate and regulate consumer energy trading in the way I had envisaged.
Why switch from a stable career in finance to creating your own startup? What was the catalyst that made you believe it was worth it?
Halfway through my time at JP Morgan I looked around the office and saw there were no recycling facilities.
This drove me to spearhead a disruptive and divisive trash recycling project in the business.
The project exceeded its recycling and cost-saving objectives but sparked office bullying and a social media “bring the bins back” campaign. It made me the most hated person in the office! However, rather than discouraging me, I was motivated by the experience.
After that something twigged in my mind at that point and I found renewables far more interesting than my day job.
One of the things I noticed was that hardly any apartments, which make up 30% of the housing stock in Australia, have solar panels. Knowing that apartment blocks could operate as an energy retailer without a retail license, I designed an embedded network for an apartment block to generate and trade solar energy.
How far away do you think people are from understanding blockchain technology and using it in their everyday lives?
I don’t think people necessarily need to understand blockchain in order to use it in their everyday lives. If you think about the internet, nobody really thinks about how the internet is working when they open an app on their phone or visit a website.
It’s just something that works in the background. I think eventually it’ll be the same for blockchain, once the buzz settles and the legitimate projects continue to grow.
A sustainable future
Why is sustainability important to you? What are some steps that need to be taken so people can respond to climate change?
The harmful effects of climate change are one of the most crucial problems facing our world; sustainability is meaningful to me because I want to find ways in which we can help mitigate these adverse effects globally. We have just seen recent reports that the next decade will be critical to changing our behaviors; we must begin reversing the unquestionable damages our current level of carbon emissions will cause.
I think the first step needs to be educating the public on the realness and severity of the issue. Raising awareness will help persuade people to make more conscious, behavioral decisions like turning off appliances when they are not in use, and riding on public transportation instead of driving personal vehicles.
Life after a career in finance
What has your experience in a startup taught you about yourself?
Working at a startup is very different to my experience working for a large corporation.
It has challenged me in many new ways and I have learned a lot about how much dedication it takes to start something from the ground up.
Throughout the last year, I have taken immense pride out of watching our team continue to grow. The most rewarding part for me, by far, is seeing us all work together toward achieving our goals and continue paving a new road toward sustainability.
Tell us about what you’re working on in your role as a Research Fellow at Curtin University.
My PhD research looked at disruptive innovation for low-cost and low-carbon housing, modular construction as well as battery and solar systems for apartments. My role now is centered around supervising PhD students and conducting research within the realm of sustainability, as part of the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute.
About Power Ledger
What are the problems with the current energy infrastructure in Australia?
Energy infrastructure in Australia is actually undergoing a major transition, as we move away from big, coal-fired power stations towards more reliance on distributed energy resources. In fact, one in five households now have rooftop solar in Australia, and this number is only increasing.
We view this as an opportunity, not as a problem, as innovative new energy technologies like our P2P trading platform emerge to more easily enable all consumers to share in the benefits of cheaper, cleaner energy.
What is Power Ledger?
Power Ledger uses blockchain technology to enhance the adoption and accessibility of low-cost, reliable and renewable energy worldwide. Our platform can be used to enable the trading of electricity as well as the settlement and payment between buyers and sellers. It’s also used as a way to fund energy assets — how the assets are funded and how they are operated.
How did Power Ledger start?
I couldn’t find any technology that allowed people to trade energy with their neighbors, and a friend of mine introduced me to one of our blockchain experts and co-founders, John Bulich.
At the same time, Power Ledger co-founder and Managing Director David Martin was working in electricity networks utility management, an industry he’d been in for over 20 years. He saw a problem in the electricity sector that resulted in the grid — the poles and wires — being used less due to distributed energy resources and the uptake in renewables.
I introduced Dave to John, and he realized the blockchain could enable a more transactive grid, maintaining utilization of the network and therefore its relevance. It was with these ideas that Power Ledger was born in May 2016.
What would a perfect world look like for Power Ledger?
An ideal world for Power Ledger would involve the realisation of a fully distributed energy system, where consumption is close to generation, and electricity poverty is significantly reduced, or eventually eliminated.
Distributed Energy Renewables (DERs) are imperative to creating our energy future, and significantly increasing the adoption of these technologies will result in the creation of a new energy paradigm. Embracing this innovation creates an increasingly more reliable, secure, affordable and decarbonized electricity market for all.
What are the major challenges for Power Ledger? What’s stopping your team from achieving this perfect world?
The world is certainly moving toward a more distributed energy future, but it’ll still take some time before DERs are significantly adopted into the mainstream. We are lucky that there is a high prevalence of rooftop solar here in Perth, Australia, so these conditions, along with the sunny weather, creates an ideal environment for achieving our “perfect world” on a small scale close to home.
How can the community support your cause?
We always encourage our community to start conversations with their energy retailer on supporting the Power Ledger platform to optimize the use of renewable energy in their area. Opening the lines of communication between both retailer and consumer benefit both parties- retailers are able to retain relationships with their customers, and consumers are able to make steps toward unlocking the value of our platform.
Alternatively, If you live in a strata title property, current regulation already allows for behind-the-meter deployment. Contact your strata manager and put them in touch with us!
What are your most used apps on your phone?
Telegram. I use it daily to communicate with the Power Ledger team, various contacts, and Power Ledger communities around the globe.
What is a hobby you do to unwind from work?
I go to the beach (Perth has beautiful beaches!) and enjoy cooking and walking.
As a child, what was your dream job?
When I was young I wanted to become a Lawyer. I even set up a desk in my parents’ house where I would hand out business cards I created.
‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ (fiction) and ‘Finding My Virginity’ (non-fiction)
You can gift 1 Bitcoin to someone in the world. Who?
If I had to donate 1 Bitcoin to any recipient, it would be a homeless charity.
What is an unpopular opinion that you hold?
I really enjoy eating meat even though it can be quite a contentious topic for some.