Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Bitcoin miners are expected to consume 0.6% of the global energy budget in 2018.
Bitcoin Could End Up Using More Power Than Electric Cars
By Tim Loh and Frederic Tomesco
11 January 2018, 05:02 GMT+10 Updated on 12 January 2018, 04:31 GMT+10
The global power needed to create cryptocurrencies this year could rival the entire electricity consumption of Argentina and be a growth driver for renewable energy producers from the U.S. to China.
Miners of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies could require up to 140 terawatt-hours of electricity in 2018, about 0.6 percent of the global total, Morgan Stanley analysts led by Nicholas Ashworth wrote in a note Wednesday. That’s more than expected power demand from electric vehicles in 2025.
“If cryptocurrencies continue to appreciate we expect global mining power consumption to increase,” Ashworth wrote in the note.
One eager entrant is Hydro-Quebec, Canada’s biggest electric utility. It’s in “very advanced” talks with more than 30 cryptocurrency miners — many of them currently operating in China — and expects to announce agreements in 2018, Marc-Antoine Pouliot, a spokesman, said Wednesday in a phone interview.
Within four years, Hydro-Quebec envisions miners soaking up about five terawatt-hours of power annually — equivalent to about 300,000 Quebec homes — from the surplus created by the region’s hydroelectric dams. “If we have to invest in our transmission network, these investments will be paid for by the miners,” Pouliot said.
Steven Mosher claimed in December that Bitcoin miners all use hydro, in response to my suggestion that bitcoin was causing a rise in CO2 emissions. Avoiding CO2 emissions seems to be important to Bitcoin advocates.
Do all bitcoin miners use hydro power or renewables? In my opinion very unlikely. Even “certified renewable” power is suspect. In 2010, Spanish solar providers were busted producing solar power at night.
Even if you assume that all bitcoin mining hosts are honest about where their power comes from, does consuming cheap hydro power for Bitcoin mining displace other traditional users of hydro, such as Aluminium smelters? Or does bitcoin mining encourage so much investment in additional hydro capacity that nobody is displaced?
Either way, a projected 0.6% of the global electricity supply is an awful lot of power to burn on an activity which seems fundamentally pointless.
There is a silver lining to green bitcoin hypocricy. If you ever discover that you are living in a dystopian green paradise, where home heating is discouraged but bitcoin mining is tolerated, you can heat your home with a multi-kilowatt bitcoin mining rig.