Myth Busting: Bitcoin Mining Is Not Necessarily Bad for the Environment Says Clean Energy Researcher
What kind of energy, not how much energy is what matters most when assessing the environmental impact of Bitcoin mining explains clean energy expert.
The Conversation published an article on Monday, August 20 where an energy expert criticized the common claim that Bitcoin’s high energy consumption is detrimental to the environment and will limit its progress.
Katrina Kelly-Pitou, Strategy Manager at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy, believes that the talks about Bitcoin mining should move away from energy-intensity and should be focused on where the energy is produced and how it is generated.
“Electricity production can increase while still maintaining a minimal impact on the environment […] Not all types of energy generation are equal in their impact on the environment, nor does the world uniformly rely on the same types of generation across states and markets.”
Effect on the environment is what matters
There is an estimation that cryptocurrency mining could take up 0.5% of the global energy usage this year. However, Kelly-Pitou explains that what matters is the sources of the energy, not the amount consumed.
China, which is currently one of the leading cryptocurrency mining countries in the world, makes use of fossil-based sources. According to Kelly-Pitou, this is a problem since the country is already accumulating devastating levels of carbon emissions.
Iceland, which is another hot spot for Bitcoin miners, makes use of 100 percent renewable geothermal and hydropower energy sources. The clean energy researcher explains that in this case, the energy demand for miners is almost irrelevant to the health of the environment.
Another similar scenario is the US Pacific Northwest which makes use of low-carbon energy sources.
Bitcoin mining more efficient than banks
Kelly-Pitou further talked about the Bitcoin mining energy controversy. According to her, if mining consumed an estimated 30 terawatt-hours in 2017, banking continues to consume an estimated 100 terawatts of power each year.
She added that:
Even if Bitcoin technology were to mature by more than 100 times its current market size, it would still equal only 2 percent of all energy consumption.
Some market experts and analysts believe that energy-intensive and profit-driven Bitcoin mining could pave way for innovation to further develop clean energy sources. Google information security engineer Marc Bevand stated that:
“Because miners are so sensitive to electricity prices, they are often a driver pushing utilities to further develop renewables which are now the cheapest source of energy”
Kelly-Pitou presented some really good points. It would be ideal if the conversation about mining moves away from the amount and to the sources instead.