Tech

Ed Drake

Cambridge index tracks BTC energy consumption in real time

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have published a new index tracking the energy consumption of SegWitCoin (BTC) in a project designed to highlight the vast consumption of resources involved in running the network.

The already-live index was first unveiled in an announcement published by the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF) this week.

Known as the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI), the index tracks the total power consumption of cryptocurrency, updated on a thirty-second basis to give an up-to-date reading.

For context, the index also reports comparisons with other energy use cases, to reflect the true extent of energy required to keep the network going.

For example, at the time of writing, the index references was showing an average of 53.01 terawatt-hour (Twh) on an annual basis, with lower and upper range projections of 21.46 TWh to 146.45 TWh respectively.

This is equivalent to the amount of energy required to boil every tea kettle in the U.K. for 11 years, and every kettle in the whole of Europe for 18 months.

Shockingly, the index suggests that crypto mining alone accounts for as much as 0.24% of the world’s total electricity consumption on an annual basis, making it equivalent to the 43rd largest country in the world by consumption—bigger than Romania, Israel, Denmark, and Singapore, amongst others.

While there has been little indication of electricity usage in cryptocurrency until now, these figures add weight to those who argue against crypto from an environmental perspective.

The energy intensive mining process, coupled with the energy required to power the ageing legacy network suggest cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is responsible for a significant carbon footprint. While there has been an increasing shift towards more sustainable sources of energy in recent years, activists point to the sheer scale of electricity consumption, and the inefficiencies inherent in mining and using cryptocurrency.

Interestingly, the index also suggests that the energy wasted by idle devices in homes across the U.S. (i.e. devices like TVs on standby, which consume energy while not in use) would be enough to power cryptocurrency for four years.

Contrary to widely-held belief, however, Bitcoin mining does not pose a threat to the environment. In Bitcoin’s case, the systems get more efficient as usage grows. This means that the more people uses the network to transact, the more energy efficient Bitcoin system mining gets.

Note: Tokens on the Bitcoin Core (SegWit) chain are referenced as SegWitCoin BTC coins. Altcoins, which value privacy, anonymity, and distance from government intervention, are referenced as dark coins.

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