Raw materials in this article
Forex in this article
• US research team compares climate damage caused by bitcoin mining with damage caused by crude oil extraction and refining
• Kenyan company uses surplus green energy for bitcoin mining
• Bitcoin mining could start an energy transition in Africa
Bitcoin is often criticized for energy efficiency
Cryptocurrencies, and Bitcoin in particular, are repeatedly criticized for their energy efficiency. Researchers at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque recently investigated how big the climate damage caused by Bitcoin really should be. The result shows that the climate change impacts of mining the “digital gold” are more comparable to the impacts of extracting and refining crude oil than mining actual gold. According to the researchers, the energy consumption for Bitcoin mining in 2020 alone was 75.4 terawatt-hours of electricity, more power consumption than countries such as Austria (69.9 TWh) or Portugal (48.4 TWh). However, the exact extent of the climate damage caused by Bitcoin is unclear. According to the researchers, there is no indication that the mining of the cryptocurrency will become more sustainable over time.
“Globally, the mining and/or production of bitcoin uses enormous amounts of electricity, most of which comes from fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. This causes enormous amounts of air pollution and carbon emissions, which negatively affect our global climate and health. We found several cases between 2016 and 2021, where bitcoin is doing more climate damage than a single bitcoin is actually worth. In other words, bitcoin mining is in some cases causing more climate damage than a coin’s worth. This is extremely worrying from a sustainability perspective.” explains research team leader Benjamin Jones.
Kenya: Bitcoin mining for more energy efficiency
What some critics fail to note, however, is that Bitcoin mining can even be used to reduce climate damage, as BTC-ECHO explains. A recent example of this is a Kenya-based mining company that has made it its mission to use wasted energy resources to mine Bitcoin. In many villages in Kenya, energy is generated from mini hydro plants. However, these generate significantly more electricity than the individual villages consume today. The company Gridless uses this “stranded” energy, which would otherwise be lost, to mine Bitcoin. The resulting cryptocurrency is then sold to reduce operating costs. Villagers’ energy costs can even be reduced by up to 90 percent.
We have been working with mini-grid hydro generators in Kenya on how to use their excess capacity for Bitcoin mining, which also significantly reduces electricity costs for the local community.
– Gridless (@GridlessCompute) 5 October 2022
Renewable energy in Africa
The potential of renewable energy in Africa often remains untapped because of the associated costs. In addition, the demand from the individual municipalities or cities is usually below the output of the respective energy source. However, this problem could be solved with Bitcoin mining, as BTC-ECHO further explains. This will not only promote the further development of such renewable energy sources in remote regions, but it may also lead to companies becoming more willing to invest due to the reduced cost of excess energy. Moreover, this would also contribute to the decentralization of bitcoin mining. “With an adaptation to the whole of Africa, the continent could become an important carrier of the mining sector. The global representation of Bitcoin prospecting would be strengthened.”
E. Schmal / Editor finanzen.net
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