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Cryptocurrency may light up renewable energy in Moldova

Reuters 

By Zoe Tabary

LONDON (Foundation) - Moldova, a small, landlocked country in eastern Europe, imports three-quarters of its and has seen its prices rise by more than half in the past five years.

But that could soon change, according to the (UNDP), which this year will launch an innovative effort to power a Moldovan university with

The initiative with Sun Exchange, a South African solar power marketplace, will allow people to buy solar cells using SolarCoin, a cryptocurrency launched by ElectriCChain, and then lease them to the Technical University of Moldova, one of the country's largest universities.

Buyers also can pay for the solar cells using euros or bitcoin, Sun Exchange officials said.

The idea is to find new sources of to "help buildings go green overnight" - in this instance with rooftop solar panels, said Dumitru Vasilescu, a with UNDP in Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries.

"One of the biggest obstacles to countries investing in is a lack of finance, as you often have to wait 10 to 15 years before you get a return on your investment," he told the Foundation.

But the university will get a full 1 megawatt of energy installed in the summer, he said, as a result of the crowd-funding effort.

Owners of the solar cells, in turn, will receive SolarCoins as soon as the university produces energy, earning interest of about 4 percent on their investment, Vasilescu added.

currently has over 10,000 square metres of unused rooftop space on public buildings that could be potentially used for such efforts, he said.

Blockchain, which first emerged as the system underpinning the virtual currency bitcoin, is a digital shared record of transactions maintained by a network of computers on the internet, without the need of a centralised authority.

It has become a in both the public and private sectors, given its ability to record and keep track of assets or transactions without the need for middlemen.

Research firm estimates global investment in blockchain will more than double in 2018 to $2.1 billion from $945 million last year, most of it for expects "strong, double-digit growth" in the between 2016 and 2021.

Kevin Treco, an at the Carbon Trust, an environmental consultancy, said could significantly change in countries striving to decentralise power and boost renewable sources.

In Moldova, for example, cryptocurrency-funded could reduce the country's dependence on such as from Russia, Vasilescu said.

Darius Nassiry, a at the Overseas Development Institute, a British think tank, predicted that most of the growth in would occur in the developing world.

"They have faster-growing energy needs… and a more accommodating legal and regulatory towards such innovations," he said by email.

But a lack of understanding on how such as cryptocurrencies work could slow their take-up in the energy sector, he added.

For Abraham Cambridge, the founder and of Sun Exchange, the solar currency exchange system "has all the right incentives in place".

"It reduces the costs of going solar dramatically for the end user and makes it easy for anyone in the world to own a solar cell anywhere in the world and, from it, make a steady source of sunlight-powered income," he said in a statement.

Blockchain is also being used in the to facilitate carbon trading, with U.S. giant announcing this week that it will with Veridium Labs, an environmental tech start-up, to turn carbon credits into digital tokens.

If the Moldovan solar currency pilot is successful, UNDP plans to replicate it in neighbouring countries, said Vasilescu, adding that it could "revolutionise the market for Eastern and Central Asia".

(Reporting by @zoetabary, Editing by Please credit the Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://trust.org)

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Fri, May 18 2018. 16:12 IST
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