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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 16 August 2018

Bitcoin miners’ power needs could soar higher than global energy production by 2020

The electricity required to mine the cryptocurrency is now higher than Serbia’s annual power consumption

The power needed to mine Bitcoins could soon outstrip world energy production. Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg
The power needed to mine Bitcoins could soon outstrip world energy production. Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

With the value of Bitcoin soaring ahead of the start of futures trading in it on Sunday, a digital analytical platform has warned that the energy usage required by the cryptocurrency will soar to unsustainable levels.

Digiconomist says that the power currently used by the hardware used to mine the currency is 32.53 terrawatt-hours (TWh) a year. This makes it the equivalent of the 62nd biggest consumer of energy across the globe, placing it above Serbia and just behind Denmark, and this power requirement will only get higher.

The current bubble building ahead of Sunday's launch of a bitcoin futures market by the Chicago-based CBOE Glomarkets Exchange has seen the price of a single unit soar to almost US$20,000 as investors piles into the currency.

The fear is that as more and more speculators chase bitcoins, there will be ever more companies mining the currency, thus pushing up their power needs.

In China, where a majority of the world's miners are, there factories with tens of thousands of computers running to perform the complex tasks required to gain Bitcoins. The energy required in that country is predominantly created by coal-fired power stations.

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Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist, wrote in Grist online magazine that: “in only a few months from now, at bitcoin’s current growth rate, the electricity demanded by the cryptocurrency network will start to outstrip what’s available. New stress on the grid means more facilities using dirty technologies.

“By July 2019 the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses. By February 2020 it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today.

“Bitcoin is slowing the effort to achieve a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. What’s more, this is only the beginning. Given its rapidly growing climate footprint, bitcoin is a malignant development.”

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