According to data presented by tradingplatforms.com, Bitcoin (BTC) now devours 143 terawatt-hours (TWh) of power annually, eight times higher than Google and Facebook combined, and more than some medium-sized European countries, raising concerns among conservationists.
Comparing Bitcoin’s electricity demands to those of individual tech firms highlights the stark contrast in their consumption volumes. For instance, Google, the world’s largest search engine, uses only 12 TWh, a twelfth of BTC’s energy use.
Likewise, Facebook’s energy requirements pale significantly in comparison to BTC’s. The social media giant requires only 5 TWh of electricity for its functions, a mere 3.5 percent of what the cryptocurrency requires.
BTC also trumps the energy needs of whole countries. For example, its energy demands beat that of Norway and Switzerland. Whereas the former’s energy demands top 124 TWh, the latter’s stand at 56 TWh, 19 and 86 TWh short of the currency’s demand respectively.
The figures come into sharp perspective when compared with data from other sectors too. For example, global data centres consume 205 TWh yearly. This means that, comparatively, BTC alone consumes 70 per cent of this figure.
In a blog post on tradingplatforms.com, Edith Reads said: “The statistics paint a grim picture. The amount of energy that BTC consumes to perform transactions uses more than what some whole countries do at the moment, and this figure is bound to rise because of the asset’s growing mining difficulty that demands more power to execute.”
Bitcoin’s bad rap, Reads explained, stems mainly from its technology. It uses a proof of work (PoW) consensus mechanism for validating transactions. PoW is energy and hardware-intensive, releasing so much waste to the environment.
Additionally, a significant proportion of its mining activity uses non-renewable energy resources. These resources, including coal, are affordable and therefore attractive to many miners, but leave a huge carbon footprint on the environment.
But the Bitcoin sector hasn’t taken the criticism lying down, concludes Reads. Its proponents have been quick to point out that other mundane activities leave a bigger footprint than the coin. Such activities include the traditional financial system, and the amount of electricity households waste on idling electronic equipment.
The sector is also attempting to pursue cleaner and greener mining. Part of that shift involves adopting renewable energy in validating transactions, including solar, wind and geothermal power. Others have called for a change to a less energy-intense consensus, like proof of stake.