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.

May 24   bitcoin
7 comments
Daniel Goldman

That’s quite a huge discrepancy; can you summarize where it is, in your opinion, that the researchers you linked went wrong?

Oleg Andreev

I’ve mistakenly treated US comma in 1,372 W for decimal point. So there is no 1000x error.

X

Alex de Vries findings are based on flawed assumptions http://blog.zorinaq.com/serious-faults-in-beci/

grapeson

Why would you leave the title of this post up without a correction. You know people are still linking to this as proof bitcoin doesn’t use much electricity?

Even if that was the case it would be dumb. If you can 51% attack the network for 3.1 megawatts of electricity that only costs a few hundred bucks an hour.

Oleg Andreev

Good point, fixed.

John

Glad to see the correction – I agree with grapeson, it would be horrible if the electricity used to power Apple’s office park would be sufficient to attack the network. Thankfully, it requires much more, and is forecast to grow, as it is proving to be a wise use of energy.

Dean

Here is my take on it:
From bitinfocharts.com the present hashrate of Bitcoin is:
33.885 Ehash/s or 33885 Phash/s or 33864000 Thash/s
Assuming all miners have Antiminer S9 with 13.5 Thash/s and 1400 watts then we have:
Present hash rate 33864000 Thash/s divided by 13.5 Thash/s for each Ant S9 and we have
2508444 Antminers S9 times 1400 Watts/Antminer s9 we get 3511822222 Watts or 3511822 KWatts or
3511 MWatts or 3.5 GWatts Minimum, since there are a lots of miners that still use old equipment

Chris

Ok now calculate the carbon footprint of those GWatts, assuming maybe 10% of hashrate is on wind/solar/water and the rest is on oil/coal.

rob freda

You use kWh, not KW. KW is the equipment rating that produces what you use. A bit coin takes 48,000 kWh to produce now (1/12th of the block). When the reward switches to 6.5 that will double. The reason Quebec Hydro kicked the crypto miners out was they were sucking about 20% of system energy. Bitcoin mining is on the GW scale, not MW.

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