Coordinating residential energy efficiency, onchain.

I’ve been close to the challenges of shifting the built environment toward NetZero for a couple of decades now. First in venture capital, then as a founder in the residential thermal energy domain, and since as a board member of Windfall Ecology Centre.

The goal has always been to simplify and incentivize changes in behaviour and technology adoption. Turns out, massively multiplayer coordination challenges can prove to be incredibly sticky.

Until we change the game…

Introducing the Windfall Protocol Research Group

We are designing a blockchain-based protocol to accelerate residential energy efficiency; a key pillar in achieving net zero targets across the developed world.


Energy usage in residential buildings is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. In the City of Toronto for example, residential buildings represent 33% of total emissions for the city. For Toronto to reach NetZero emissions, 2.1M residential units require retrofits at a cost of $52B.

Toronto is not alone. Cities across the developed world are in the same situation with $124B already going into residential energy efficiency investment a year. Indeed, governments at all levels have long recognized energy efficiency retrofits as effective programs that simultaneously achieve environment, employment, and civic awareness goals, with many of the short-term, low-cost improvements already complete. 

Deeper, more intensive retrofits however require building owners to make choices where the direct benefits may be unclear or extend beyond the term they intend to own or occupy a building. While incentive programs have helped, it remains difficult to target the highest impact retrofits due to a lack of data and the complicated web of stakeholders involved in the retrofit process including owners, occupants, contractors, vendors, utilities, and governments.

Exploring the Opportunity

Advances in blockchain-based smart contracts, data privacy, and incentive mechanisms point to a potential breakthrough in this challenge. 

Windfall Ecology Centre and Possibilian, in partnership with Durham Region, BlockScience, SuperBenefit, and the support of Natural Resources Canada, are exploring the design of a blockchain-based protocol to accelerate progress toward NetZero targets. The protocol will do this by radically reducing coordination barriers in energy efficiency labeling, auditing, incentives, financing, and installation of energy conservation measures for residential buildings.

Using Windfall Centre’s  v-HEAT (Virtual Home Energy Assessment Tool) project as a reference case – which is providing virtual energy audits and efficiency labels to 200,000 homes in Durham region, Canada – we are exploring the design of a blockchain-based protocol that would provide every building with its own blockchain-based ledger that could:

  1. hold proofs of audits and retrofits; 
  2. allow owners and occupants to provide access to energy data to verify efficiency outcomes; 
  3. allow incentive, finance, and energy conservation measure providers to design and deploy tailored retrofit upgrade offers and conservation incentives directly to homeowners.

To design this protocol, we are actively engaging the network of stakeholders representing different players in the energy efficiency audit and retrofit process from across Durham Region. This genuine community engagement is central to how we are developing the protocol. It is a crucial component of addressing the fundamental coordination challenges in this system.

Pathways Forward

We are currently four months into our research on the context and requirements for this initial protocol. While our research is anchored in the experience of stakeholders involved in running and incentivizing residential energy efficiency audit and retrofit programs in Ontario, Canada, we know that the same coordination challenges exist in jurisdictions across the developed world.

To align our work with experiences and needs around the world, we are opening up a community of interest where we aim to share our learning and invite a collective exploration into the challenges this underlying protocol could solve, what additional benefits it could deliver, and how it might best be implemented as a universal protocol serving jurisdictions around the world.

The Windfall Protocol community will play an important role as we explore the design, funding, and governance of the protocol. To learn more and join in our mission to eradicate barriers to residential energy efficiency, please visit:

Written by Michael Lewkowitz, with thanks to Brent Kopperson, Rowan Yeoman, Jeff Emmett, Jessica Zartler, and rathermercurial.eth for edits and contributions.