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Bitcoin's electric energy consumption set to balloon

Written by NTN staff
23/05/18

One paper predicts the blockchain network could be using as much as 7.7 gigawatts by the end of this year, or as much as Austria, and 5% of the world's total in the future.

Financial economist and blockchain specialist Alex de Vries, in a peer-reviewed article, puts the minimum current usage of the Bitcoin network at 2.55 gigawatts, which means it uses almost as much electricity as Ireland. A single transaction uses as much electricity as an average household in the Netherlands uses in a month. By the end of this year, he predicts the network could be using as much as 7.7 gigawatts - as much as Austria and 0.5% of the world's total consumption.

If the price of Bitcoin continues to increase the way some experts have predicted, de Vries believes the network could someday consume 5% of the world's electricity.

"To me, half a percent is already quite shocking. It's an extreme difference compared to the regular financial system, and this increasing electricity demand is definitely not going to help us reach our climate goals," he says.

"You are generating numbers the whole time and the machines you're using for that use electricity. But if you want to get a bigger slice of the pie, you need to increase your computing power. So there's a big incentive for people to increase how much they're spending on electricity and on machines," de Vries says.

Vries, who works at the Experience Center of PwC, wants people to use this paper as a foundation for more research.