According to a study titled “Bitcoin’s Growing Energy Problem” by Alex De Vries, the founder of the blog Digiconomist, the Bitcoin network is estimated to consume over 2.55 gigawatts of electricity today and approximately 7.67 gigawatts in the near future. The energy consumption of Bitcoin is comparable to countries like Austria (8.2 gigawatts) and Ireland (3.1 gigawatts).
Bitcoin mining is pretty energy intensive
There have been several studies that have tried to quantify the energy used in bitcoin mining, and two conclusions often come up: Bitcoin mining is energy intensive and it is anticipated to ramp up in future.
Mining, which is the “production” of each bitcoin, requires a good amount of computer processing power to verify transactions and add them to the public ledger.
De Vries said that he has seen a lot of back-of-the-envelope calculations which require a more rigorous scientific discussion on where the Bitcoin network is headed. He added that the information available as of now is quite poor in quality, and he is hoping that people will use this study as a foundation for more research.
These claims do not have adequate data: Experts
Not all experts agree with his tentative conclusions, however. Jonathan Koomey, a lecturer at Stanford, once proved wrong the claims about internet consuming half of the US electrical grid. (Some experts had claimed that half of the US electrical grid would be used in powering the internet, but Koomey and his team demonstrated in their 2011 study that less than 2% of the electricity of the country was consumed by the data centers needed for the internet). Koomey believes the claim about Bitcoin energy consumption will prove to be another false claim.
He said that “Doing these wild extrapolations can have real-world consequences. I would not bet anything on the bitcoin thing driving total electricity demand. It is a tiny, tiny part of all data center electricity use.”
Koomey points to inaccuracies in the study methodology relating to the equipment used in the study of Bitcoin mining.
Another expert, Jens Malmodin, who has estimated carbon emissions and energy consumption in the information and communications technology industry since 2005, also opined that De Vries’ claims cannot be proven without adequate data, but if true, they would signal a big threat to the network.