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Bitcoins demand a huge amount of electricity

Bitcoin is the most popular virtual currency to date but it is starting to have some serious physical effects on the environment. A study shows that in an optimistic case the growth of demand on electricity is little, but in the pessimistic case this may lead to a total electricity demand similar to that of a small country, like Denmark, by 2020.

What started off as a hobby for Sebastiaan Deetman, PhD researcher at the CML, turned into a personal concern once he realized how much electricity is required to keep the bitcoin network afloat.

In his publication on the American tech blog Motherboard, he presents a quick scenario analysis on how the energy consumption may develop in the coming years. Based on historic trends, the analysis shows that, despite the increasing efficiency of the hardware used to secure bitcoin transactions, the total energy consumption is likely to grow further.

This study shows that in an optimistic case this growth is little, but in the pessimistic case this may lead to a total electricity demand similar to that of a small country, like Denmark, by 2020. The scenarios are not intended as predictions of the future, but aim to provide some reflection on the potentially quite destructive technological arms race that is currently going on for many virtual currencies.

The publication was picked up both within and outside the bitcoin community, leading to a radio interview at the Dutch BNR radio

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