As bitcoin marches to new records, it’s also gobbling up the energy of a country of more than 200 million people.
The University of Cambridge’s Centre for Alternative Finance attempts to keep track of bitcoin energy consumption. While the exact consumption can never be known, a guess can be produced by tracking the total number of hashes produced by miners and looking at the efficiency of bitcoin mining equipment. The hash rate is the measuring unit of the processing power of the bitcoin network.
The recent increase in price — bitcoin
has jumped 276% this year, trading around $27,000 on Tuesday — has made it more profitable to use less-efficient equipment.
At 92.8 terawatt hours annualized, bitcoin’s power consumption is slightly ahead of Pakistan’s consumption in 2016, and not wildly away from the Netherlands’ consumption that year. Put a different way, the electricity consumed by minting bitcoin could power all the tea kettles in Britain for 21 years.
Two-thirds of bitcoin production is done out of China. More than half of China’s energy output comes from coal, so the bitcoin production is likely to be particularly dirty.
The U.S. is in second place in terms of bitcoin production, with an estimated 7% of all bitcoin production, which puts it slightly ahead of Russia and Kazakhstan.