Searching for Disruptive Business Models in the Energy Sector: The Role of Social Innovation in Connecting Prosumers using Virtual Power Plants

Searching for Disruptive Business Models in the Energy Sector: The Role of Social Innovation in Connecting Prosumers using Virtual Power Plants

Thursday, 26 March 2015 - 10:00am to 11:00am

In this PhD project, Martin argues social innovative business models in the distribution edge of the electricity system can be catalytic at a systemic scale. He will design and simulate an electricity-sharing system of prosumers and distributed energy resources in order to describe how this social change would come about. The work grounds on the virtues of demand response schemes to establish why such business models would be valuable in the energy transition; allowing higher penetration of renewables in a smarter and responsive grid. The presentation will cover the methodology applied to theorize these claims, where an analysis of business model dynamics at different sociotechnical system levels is used to propose this potentially disruptive innovation. Initial architecture and simulations will be presented for what could be described as a Social Virtual Energy Network.

Event Location: 
LAB14 Seminar Room
700 Swanston Street (Corner of Grattan & Swanston St)

Martin Wainstein is Innovator-in-Residence at Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale. He is also a research associate at the Yale department of Electrical Engineering, and a research affiliate at the Digital Currency Initiative of the MIT Media Lab. Martin completed his PhD at the Australian-German Climate & Energy College at the University of Melbourne.

Martin studied Biological Sciences at The University of Southern California where he specialized in Astro and Geomicrobiology and later worked on Microbial Fuel Cells at the J. Craig Venter Institute in La Jolla. Martin then returned to Argentina, his home country, to pursue social entrepreneurship and establish businesses within the clean energy sector. As an entrepreneur, Martin has developed projects in renewable energies for the built environment, biofuel projects for large agriculture farms, forest conservation initiatives, marketing and corporate social responsibility campaigns for multinationals, and established a network of sustainable architecture to tackle social innovation projects.

PhD Project:  Searching for Disruptive Social Business Models in the Energy Sector: The role of social innovation in aggregating prosumers with Virtual Power Plants

At the Australian-German, Martin channels his multiple interests into an interdisciplinary PhD that develops and tests disruptive innovations. His research proposes that business models that can combine Internet and energy management developments such as peer-to-peer platforms and Virtual Power Plants, in order to collectively manage distributed energy resources, are ideal systems for socially innovative firms to achieve scale and replication. Socially innovative firms, which can address an environmental problem with a market-based approach, are theorised as critical developments that can influence business direction and flexibility to the carbon lock-in. The project entails the design and simulation of an urban social electricity-trading network using a City of Melbourne case study to propose how this systemic change would come about.


Case study analysis of business model innovation in the electricity sector with a multi-level perspective on sociotechnical transitions (niche, regime and landscape levels). Content literature on the intersection of the collaborative economy/ PCP platforms with electricity networks.

Design and develop technical and economic simulations of Virtual Power Plants composed of a portfolio with multiple prosumers and other DERs. 

Supervisors: Dr. Roger Dargaville, Prof. John Wiseman, A/Prof Chris Ryan, Dr. Adam Bumpus

Start Date: March 2014    Completion: 2018


Web tools and Projects we developed

  • Open-NEM

    The live tracker of the Australian electricity market.

  • Paris Equity Check

    This website is based on a Nature Climate Change study that compares Nationally Determined Contributions with equitable national emissions trajectories in line with the five categories of equity outlined by the IPCC.

  • liveMAGICC Climate Model

    Run one of the most popular reduced-complexity climate carbon cycle models online. Used by IPCC, UNEP GAP reports and numerous scientific publications.

  • NDC & INDC Factsheets

    Check out our analysis of all the post-2020 targets that countries announced under the Paris Agreement.