An utterly failed attempt to find a 1000x flaw in Bitcoin energy consumption research
BITCOIN ESTIMATED TO USE HALF A PERCENT OF THE WORLD’S ELECTRIC ENERGY BY END OF 2018
The Bitcoin network can be estimated to consume at least 2.55 gigawatts of electricity currently, and potentially 7.67 gigawatts in the future, making it comparable with countries such as Ireland (3.1 gigawatts) and Austria (8.2 gigawatts)
ERRATA: I thought it’s 1.372 W, but it’s actually 1,372 in US notation, which explains 1000x difference. Stupid me. Bitcoin will eat the world and we all gonna die.
The reality is that Bitcoin miners consume about 3 megawatts (1000x less than claimed) which is 1/10000th of a percent of world electricity consumption. To put this into perspective, the solar panels of Apple Park in California produce 17 megawatts. In other words, Apple Park consumes 6x more electricity than the entire Bitcoin mining. It is rather easy to estimate the energy cost of Bitcoin proof-of-work computation: 1. Take the modern miner, assuming that most miners are using the latest hardware (as less efficient one is quickly outcompeted due to neverending race to produce more efficient machines). E.g. AntMiner S9 produces 14 terahashes per second consuming 1.3 watts. Slightly older AntMiner T9 produces 12.5 TH/s at 1.5 watts. These specs are public and Alex de Vries uses them too in his paper.
2. Look at the actual bitcoin network with recent difficulty. It’s pretty easy to calculate the expected number of hashes that must be computed on average in order to solve the block. Today it is 33 399 541 TH/s. Note that this is not some back-of-the-napkin calculation, but a very precise average based on precise difficulty parameter.
3. Divide total network hashrate (33 million TH/s) by individual miner’s output (14 TH/s) and multiply by the required power (1.3 watts). You’ll get 3-4 megawatts.
4. It’s a lower bound, but it’s a reasonable one, as much more inefficient miners could not be the majority, and the major miners are more likely to be running more efficient machines that they produce themselves, that people do not know about yet. No way you can stretch this into 2.55 gigawatts as Alex de Vries claimed. Global electricity consumption is over 2200 gigawatts which makes Bitcoin mining with 0.003 gigawatts consume 1/10000th of a percent of world electricity. And the world consumes 8x more energy than just electricity overall. For instance, Ireland consumes 3 gigawatts of electricity, but total energy consumption is 17 gigawatts. This is relevant when people emotionally discuss overall effect of Bitcoin mining on the environment.