This year, bitcoin got greener than ever as companies across crypto doubled down on sustainability & renewable energy initiatives.
In June 2021, I shared my thoughts in Newsweek about bitcoin’s promise to become a highly energy-efficient and green technology, and to incentivize the development and profitability of the renewable energy sector. Since then, we've seen a proliferation of advancements towards sustainability in bitcoin mining, with companies across the bitcoin space joining forces to coordinate environmentally-friendly strategies and shifts.
Discussion about bitcoin’s energy consumption and its environmental implications has come to a head in mainstream narratives about bitcoin this year. The fact is, bitcoin mining is a highly energy-consumptive operation. The security of the bitcoin network relies on legions of supercomputers continuously resolving increasingly difficult computational puzzles, in order to add new blocks to the blockchain as bitcoin transactions occur. This is what allows bitcoin to be such a highly secure, decentralized money.
Moreover, bitcoin replaces the need for fiat banking and money-print operations – resource and energy-guzzling institutions that are equally, if not more energy-intensive.
Concerns about bitcoin's carbon footprint to date aren’t inherently misguided; in fact, they’re shared by companies across the bitcoin sector that are actively working to make mining maximally reliant on renewable energy. However, mainstream arguments about bitcoin’s energy consumption are largely incomplete. They often fail to take these large-scale and increasingly frequent initiatives from the mining sector into account and thereby do not capture the state of bitcoin mining in the midst of a green revolution.
In a year, the bitcoin space and supportive policymakers have mobilized to launch a multitude of global initiatives aimed at shrinking mining’s footprint through renewable energy usage.
- All five of the largest publicly traded crypto mining companies, including BitFarms and Neptune Digital Assets, are building or already operating plants powered by renewables.
- Blockstream and Block announced a joint venture in April 202 to leverage Tesla’s energy equipment for a $12 million bitcoin mining facility that will be powered entirely on open-source, solar, and battery-powered energy.
- The Bitcoin Mining Council formed to tackle climate issues in the industry and coordinate environmental strategy
- More than 200 companies and individuals launched the Crypto Climate Accord in 2021, which has a primary goal, to achieve net-zero emissions from electricity consumption for accord’s signatories by 2030.
- Energy producers and crypto mining companies are partnering to work towards renewable energy mining plants, like Talen Energy, an energy producer committed to developing clean energy facilities, which partnered with Terawulf, a mining company, in August 2021.
- TeraWulf has pledged to run crypto mines using more than 90% zero-carbon energy with 2 projects already in progress including a retired coal plant that runs on Hydropower in upstate new york and a nuclear-powered facility in Pennsylvania
- Texas governor Greg Abbot has offered fiscal incentives for companies that can quickly unplug when electricity demand spikes statewide, thereby responding to fluctuating demand across the grid. Crypto mining facilities are uniquely able to do this, and they're actively taking advantage of this incentive, promoting efficient energy usage in the industry. Miners have flocked to Texas to make use of crypto-friendly policy and incentives like this one.
These are just some of the many steps towards a greener future we've seen this year. As bitcoin mining becomes even more widespread with mining in the US quickly on the rise (35% of the world's crypto mining now takes place in the US, up from 5% in August 2020), we'll undoubtedly continue to see companies finding new and innovative ways to make mining green – particularly as cities across the U.S. vie to become the de facto crypto capital of the U.S. and the world.
As mining does continue to surge in the U.S., it’s incumbent on our policymakers to encourage and support building renewable infrastructure for bitcoin mining operations
To our legislators, we say this: surging interest in and adoption of bitcoin over the last year has shown us bitcoin, and mining, aren't going anywhere. It is incumbent on municipal, state, and federal policymakers to work with, and not against, bitcoin companies to help bitcoin fulfill its mission, as the currency of the future, to support a sustainable future.
Happy Earth Day and shoutout to everyone out there fighting for better, safer, and more eco-friendly money.
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