With the price of Bitcoin soaring, a growing number of individuals and businesses are putting their computer hardware to work mining the cryptocurrency.
The process of mining bitcoin involves a series of challenging cryptographic puzzles — puzzles that can seriously tax even the world’s most powerful computer hardware. The end result is an incredible amount of energy consumption — larger, in fact, than many of the world’s economies.
In November 2017, the total amount of electricity consumed worldwide by Bitcoin miners hit a new peak. Global mining activity resulted in more than 27 times as much energy consumption as the Visa network, and even beat the entire aggregate electricity consumption of Nigeria.
In 2013, prior to Bitcoin’s recent surge in price, the BBC reported on the amount of electricity consumed by cryptocurrency miners. The 2013 report found that under 982 megawatt hours could be attributed to Bitcoin mining per day — a fraction of the current consumption.
The growth in cryptocurrency mining has significant implications not only for global electricity consumption, but also for residential and business electricity consumers in Britain.
Earlier this year, a report in the Guardian noted that many of the world’s most popular websites were turning to covert currency mining as a monetisation strategy, largely in response to falling online advertising profits.
The websites, which included US video streaming website Showtime, secretly used visitors’ PC hardware to mine Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, effectively forcing visitors to part with their electricity in exchange for access.
While the individual cost of covert cryptocurrency mining might be small, the aggregate cost can be significant. In total, more than $7 million worth of Bitcoins are mined globally per day, often at a significant energy cost.
With the cryptocurrency’s price fluctuating, it remains to be seen whether the amount of energy used by Bitcoin miners — both in the UK and internationally — will continue to grow in scale.