Japan's Marubeni backs blockchain crowd-sourcing platform for solar, wind farms

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Marubeni Corp is seen at the company headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Japan's Marubeni Corp 8002.T has agreed to back a blockchain power purchasing platform, WePower, that is looking to establish itself in Australia to tap rapid growth in solar and wind power, the two firms said on Tuesday.

The Japanese trading house has issued an unspecified loan to Lithuania-based WePower, convertible into shares. A Marubeni spokeswoman in Tokyo told Reuters that the size of the stake Marubeni will end up with after converting the loan has not been determined.

WePower has designed a blockchain platform that it says makes it easy for small- and medium-sized businesses to buy power from wind and solar project developers, offering standardized, digital power purchase agreements to help underwrite new projects.

Typically, power purchase agreements (PPAs) are negotiated one-to-one between a developer and an industrial buyer. But negotiations are usually complex and lengthy, requiring contract commitments of at least five to 10 years.

Australia is already running out of major power consumers to commit to large supplies of power from new projects. But tens of billions of dollars worth of power generation projects are on the drawing board, projects which will need to turn to smaller commercial and industrial businesses to line up enough PPAs to back a project.

WePower offers a standard contract, shorter timeframes and flexibility for buyers to on-sell their off take agreements if they no longer need the power. The firm raised $40 million in one day in February 2018 in an initial coin offering.

“The only discussion point then, through the platform, is the price,” said WePower Chief Executive and co-founder Nikolaj Martynuik said in a statement. “That takes a lot of the complexity out.”

Reporting by Sonali Paul; Additional reporting by Aaron Sheldrick in TOKYO; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell