Digital Infrastructure, Energy Efficiency, Systems Engineering, Sustainability, Web3

The Windfall Protocol: Blockchain-Based Infrastructure to Accelerate Building Retrofits & Energy Efficiency Initiatives


BlockScience recently published a research paper with the Windfall Ecology Centre, Possibilian, and SuperBenefit in collaboration with Durham Region and funding from Natural Resources Canada on the affordances of blockchain technology to improve building retrofit energy efficiency programs. A summary of the paper can be found below, with a link to the full version at the end of this article.

Executive Summary

"We are living in a time of unprecedented economic and environmental challenges. Having crossed six of nine planetary boundaries, we stand at the threshold of ecosystemic collapse and are already witnessing mass degradation of the natural environment and irreparable harm to people and the planet. We must drastically and rapidly re-align our institutions, technologies, economies, and human-made systems to the regeneration of our communities and natural ecosystems."

Canada needs systemic shifts in energy efficiency retrofit programs in order to accelerate the national transition towards our net-zero emission targets by 2050. Homes and buildings account for nearly one-fifth of Canada’s carbon footprint, but at current retrofit rates it will take 142 years to transition residential buildings, and 71 years for commercial buildings. Yet our transition to a zero-carbon economy is needed within the next 26 years - preferably within the next decade, given the speed of the unfolding climate crisis.

The Windfall Protocol Research Group has completed a five-month study with funding from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to survey this landscape from a systems perspective and identify design considerations for a new layer of multi-stakeholder coordination and shared digital infrastructure. Partners including Windfall Ecology Centre, Possibilian, BlockScience, and SuperBenefit are researching and developing an open-source blockchain-based protocol to facilitate energy efficiency labelling and data sharing for residential and commercial buildings to accelerate retrofit adoption dubbed the Windfall Protocol. This paper outlines a high-level conceptual architecture and technical considerations, as well as a planned pilot in Durham Region.

The Windfall Protocol aims to address many of the gaps that exist between stakeholder groups in current building energy efficiency subsidy programs. For participants, it can reduce complexity of accessing information and retrofits, and offers new incentive pathways. For regulators and incentive providers, the protocol offers opportunities for smart and targeted incentives, improved data flows, and actionable net-zero strategies. This multi-stakeholder digital infrastructure could be leveraged for large-scale transformation of energy markets, open new avenues to finance energy efficiency retrofits, and supercharge the coordinative capacities and incentives needed to drive the volume of retrofits required for net-zero.

In addition to digital, technical, and economic innovation, the protocol will also require multi-stakeholder governance and representation in design choices and trade off decisions with social, technical, economic, and environmental impacts. As part of these efforts, the Windfall Protocol Research Group is also convening a consortium of stakeholders to solicit feedback and engage in discussions on further development of the program and the protocol it aims to produce.

This paper informs the next phase of research and development for the Windfall Protocol Research Group in defining the Windfall Protocol Program - including a pilot implementation in the Durham municipality of Ontario, Canada. The goal is to create an open-source energy efficiency retrofit protocol with the steering capacities required to guide our systems on a more resilient and regenerative environmental and economic trajectory.

"The Windfall Protocol Research Group and stakeholder consortium offer a schelling point for coordination and leadership in this crucial mission. The group welcomes participation and collaboration to resource and further develop ideas explored in this report, and work together towards not just net-zero goals but net-positive ones, with the capacity for regeneration to serve seven generations and beyond."


Discover more about the Windfall Protocol Research Group from its co-founder, Michael Lewkowitz: https://lewwwk.com/post8067/

Get engaged with the research! Questions and discussions about the lite paper, mechanism design, and collaboration opportunities are taking place in the SuperBenefit Discord


Acknowledgments

This report was written by Jessica Zartler (BlockScience), Jeff Emmett (BlockScience), Michael Lewkowitz (Possibilian), and Brent Kopperson (Windfall Ecology Centre), with input and feedback from Michael Zargham (BlockScience), David Sisson (BlockScience), Kelsie Nabben (BlockScience), Rowan Yeoman (SuperBenefit), Rathermercurial.eth (SuperBenefit), and Ananth Nandakishore (SuperBenefit).

We would also like to thank all of the research and development partners involved in the production of this report and other key stakeholders in the Windfall Protocol community, without whom this research would not be possible.


About BlockScience

BlockScience® is a complex systems engineering, R&D, and analytics firm. By integrating ethnography, applied mathematics, and computational science, we analyze and design safe and resilient socio-technical systems. With deep expertise in Market Design, Distributed Systems, and AI, we provide engineering, design, and analytics services to a wide range of clients including for-profit, non-profit, academic, and government organizations.

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