As Bitcoin continues to dominate the end of year news, the internet seems awash with stories about it, ranging from the ridiculous to the obscene in most cases. And then sometimes, one of those stories is worth thinking about. Like the claim that due to whole factories full of computer servers mining for Bitcoin, it is currently using more energy than Ireland.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Power consumption related to <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/bitcoin?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#bitcoin</a> mining is huge and may not be sustainable: today, it exceeds 30 TWh, more than Ireland’s <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/electricity?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#electricity</a> needs. >> <a href="https://t.co/3jebI7i8du">https://t.co/3jebI7i8du</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/digital?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#digital</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/energy?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#energy</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cryptocurrency?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cryptocurrency</a> <a href="https://t.co/EgcRzo0kD4">pic.twitter.com/EgcRzo0kD4</a></p>— Gilles Cochevelou (@GCochevelou) <a href="https://twitter.com/GCochevelou/status/937938352631943168?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">December 5, 2017</a></blockquote>
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You see, those digital financial transactions come with a real-world price: The tremendous growth of crypto currencies as Bitcoin and Ethereum at the same time creates an exponential demand for computing power.
In order to get Bitcoin, the math problems computers must solve to make more of it (a process called “mining”) get more and more difficult, a wrinkle in the system which was designed to control the currency’s supply.
It is estimated to in order to mine one Bitcoin, the same amount of energy is used to power nine homes in the US for one day. If you calculate that per number of Bitcoin being mined at the moment, you get an estimated energy use of 31 terawatt-hours per year. More than 150 individual countries in the world consume less energy annually.
If data from Eurostat (from 2015) is to be compared, Denmark consumes 30.7 terawatts of electricity and the Republic of Ireland consumed 25.07 terawatts.
Hence, the question, ‘does Bitcoin use as much energy as Ireland’, should be answered ‘no, it uses more already’.
Though analysts admit that Bitcoin mining uses a lot of computing power, they do want to take into account the more energy friendly technologies developed in recent years.
Mr. Marc Bevand argues this theory makes "the wrong assumption that a fixed '60%' of mining revenues are spent on electricity".