Paolo Pastore: “I see the NFT market as a new market still trying to unleash its potential.”

In this Q&A, Paolo Pastore, NFT designer and managing director of Efforce, shares how Web3 can help fight climate crisis.

Energy consumption in the NFT space is a hot topic as it’s common knowledge that transactions on Layer-1 blockchains like Ethereum uses enough electricity per year to power a whole country. According to Digiconomist, Ethereum consumes about 112 terawatt-hours of electricity per year, comparable to the Netherlands and more than Philippines and Pakistan.

With the impending merge from proof-of-work (PoW) to proof-of-stake (PoS), Ethereum claims that it can reduce energy consumption by ~99.95%. Meanwhile, a number of startups have developed Layer-2 scaling solutions to reduce gas fees and energy usage, with some claiming to be carbon neutral.

On the other hand, one startup, Efforce, has found another use of the blockchain to contribute to energy efficiency. Co-founded by Apple’s Steve Wozniak, the platform allows people to fund energy efficiency projects through the purchase of NFTs minted on Polygon, and benefit from the energy savings generated by those energy efficiency projects. 

To find out more about how Efforce helps countries reduce environmental impact, we speak to the platform’s NFT designer and managing director, Paolo Pastore, who shares his insights. 

Please tell us about yourself and the story behind your role at Efforce.
I have a background in marketing and IT, I worked as a full stack developer for almost 10 years, having my own company which helped a couple of Italian startups scale up by developing their digital products and hiring their tech teams. I previously worked with Efforce founders on other projects and they were looking for someone with a tech background to take over the operational aspects of their company. I was very happy to have the chance to join them when they asked me if I was interested. It was an easy choice given my interest in the crypto/web3 scene and Efforce ambitions and goals.

What piqued your interest in the NFT space and where did you first hear about it?
I first heard about NFTs when CryptoKitties was hitting headlines in 2018 but, at that time, I didn’t dive into the technology behind it. I saw NFTs as speculative assets similar to collectibles but with a limited market. I was working in a more traditional tech environment and despite my curiosity in crypto, there was no real engagement. I started getting the potential of NFTs in 2021 when I decided to know more about the technology and their use cases.

Which energy efficiency projects is Efforce working with and how are they selected?
On September 8 we are going to open contributions of two projects (one CCHP and one CHP plant). These were selected to launch the platform, size was important and we wanted small projects in order to help people understand how everything works without the need to put too much money at stake. We have compensated for the expected lower-yielding of rewards by supercharging our NFTs with utilities and benefits for holders.

Steve Wozniak told CNBC that Efforce is “having problems getting [WOZX] implemented.” Besides the crypto market downturn, what other reasons could there be for that?
We are not affected at all by the market downturn since our product uses stable coins (originally USDT but now we moved to USDC) to fund energy efficiency projects so all the capital we raised is safe. We work with traditional companies which need to do investments on infrastructure to get more efficient in terms of energy consumption. We were slowed down by regulations on securities and by the difficulty in bridging funds collected in the crypto space to the traditional economy. We had to do multiple redesigns of our platform to make sure everything is compliant and we are still doing a lot of work to make sure funds can reach companies in a decent timespan.

Do you think NFTs are the way forward when it comes to reducing the impact of real-world issues such as energy consumption in the Web3 space? If so, why?
NFTs are tokens on a blockchain. I think we should start to look at the impact of the chain itself in terms of energy consumption to choose wisely on which chain to build and innovate as creators or builders. I look forward with much interest to the coming Ethereum merge which I see as a game changer from an energy efficiency point of view. Reducing consumption starts by moving away from POW which at this point demonstrated to be too energy demanding.

What kind of rewards will  WOZX token holders earn and how can they make use of the rewards?
WOZX tokens are the key to having access to our platform. Holders will have to stake their tokens in order to be able to mint NFTs. Each NFT will represent a proof of contribution to an energy efficiency project which, if staked, will generate rewards in mWOZ (our reward token representing saved energy). These tokens are backed by USDCs on an on-chain smart contract and are instantly swappable. In the future mWOZ holders will have the chance to use their reward tokens to offset their bills or to fund other projects on our platform at a discounted price.

What are some of the most pressing issues of the climate crisis in the Web3 context and how can they be resolved besides building on eco-friendly blockchains?
Web3 can help fight climate crisis in many ways. To give you an example, blockchains can empower decentralization in renewable energy production and consumption by sharing data securely between consumers and utilities companies. Decentralized data for a decentralized grid. Or can help fund energy efficiency projects, as Efforce is doing, to cut carbon emissions at the source by reducing energy consumption through optimization of used energy in factories or buildings.

How else will Efforce reach more people in the Web3 space and beyond?
We want to inform people on why it is important to fund energy efficiency projects. Becoming energy efficient could save a country’s economy from an energetic crisis, by helping to reach auto sustainability without any change of habits or sacrifice in terms of production of goods. It is the most powerful and effective weapon we have at our disposal but we miss to sell it as we should. By becoming a source of knowledge and by advocating on this theme we aim at gathering a lot of interest and open a new market.

What do you think about the current state of the NFT market? What kind of role is Efforce playing in it?
I see the NFT market as a new market still trying to unleash its potential. Right now the most known projects are sort of club/community related ones while I believe NFTs should play a major role in fields like ownership, certifications, shared participations, application of royalty systems and more. The market needs to mature and to protect whoever wants to join. I look forward to see many more applications of this technology. Efforce is trying to commoditize participations in energy efficiency projects using NFTs, opening a new market and testing a new use case. Hopefully this will inspire builders and creators to explore new ways of using them.

What can users look forward to from Efforce this year?
We are just starting now and we have a lot of things in the works: new and bigger projects to fund with a higher yielding of rewards, a new reward token based on carbon credits, a complete refresh of our brand identity with a massive work on copywriting which we expect will improve how our product is perceived and understood by new and old users. A lot more is coming and will be announced later this year and in 2023.

What are the most challenging aspects of your role at  Efforce and how do you overcome these challenges?
I’m a tech guy, but all things related to energy/sustainability were kind of new for me. I kept studying and learning on the field from the day I joined the company, harnessing knowledge from the founders and the team while trying to find my own resources to learn from. But the most challenging aspect of my everyday job is to try to translate a traditional financial system into a crypto product compliant with tokens regulations from all over the world.

Where do you think we could see NFTs in the near future?
Honestly I don’t know what to expect from NFTs right now. My hope is to see new use cases which try to leverage on the technology to create new economies or to improve existing systems. I wish to see less hype for PFP or metaverse projects. The metaverse is cool and it will definitely happen one day but we are not ready yet and we should use our collective effort to solve issues related to our only real world before building a new one.

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