In exchange for its impressive security, the Bitcoin network is eating through an increasingly large amount of energy. Such a dynamic has generated stinging criticism in ecological circles, where concerns about miners’ reliance on fossil fuel resources is growing. Yet if the world shifts to 100 percent renewable energy usage in the years ahead, Bitcoin could no longer be attacked as ecologically harmful.
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Facing the ‘Energy Problem’
The debates around the Bitcoin network’s energy consumption have been picking up steam as of late.
This week, Alex de Vries of PwC’s Experience Center in Amsterdam published a paper in Vol. 2, Issue 5 of Joule, a “ground-breaking energy research” journal. The paper was entitled “Bitcoin’s Growing Energy Problem.”
de Vries pictured.
In the essay, de Vries concluded that Bitcoin’s energy consumption could soon be inching up past a consumption rate of 8 gigawatts annually:
“These methods tell us that the Bitcoin network consumes at least 2.55 GW of electricity currently, and that it could reach a consumption of 7.67 GW in the future, making it comparable with countries such as Ireland (3.1 GW) and Austria (8.2 GW).”
To be sure, 8GW is a massive amount of energy. Of course, it’s not the 100 terawatts the world’s banking industry uses annually according to some estimates, though I digress.
The point? Bitcoin uses a lot of energy, and it’s supposed to. And that reality’s going to cause debate among bitcoiners and nocoiners so long as ecologically harmful fossil fuel resources are powering a sizeable chunk of the Bitcoin network.
The entire debate will shift, however, if the world transitions to using 100 percent renewable energy resources. Then, Bitcoin could use energy to its heart’s content without engendering ecological harm.
A Future of Use Without Guilt
For some, the notion of the international community moving to 100 percent renewable energy has been considered all but impossible.
According to new research featured in the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews journal, however, a total shift to renewable energy resources is not only argued to be possible but also affordable using contemporary technology.
The research, published under the title “Response to ‘Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems,’” explores the various ways renewables could be uniformly used, even in light of energy variation.
Aalborg University’s Brian Vad Mathiesen, a co-author of the research, said:
“There are some persistent myths that 100 percent renewable systems are not possible. Our contribution deals with these myths one-by-one, using all the latest research. Now let’s get back to the business of modelling low-cost scenarios to eliminate fossil fuels from our energy system, so we can tackle the climate and health challenges they pose.”
To that end, the elimination of fossil fuel usage would also eliminate the environmental challenge that Bitcoin’s detractors say it poses.
It would also open up the possibility of green energy-backed bitcoin mining farms that are almost entirely automated — e.g. with wind and solar energy at work, only a single program would need to be left running to assess and manage energy flow.
For now, we await the future that could be.
What’s your take? Do you think fossil fuels are here to stay for now or are renewables best to pivot toward quickly? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Images via Mecal.eu, Green Ubuntu, PwC
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