The sustainability issue and energy concerns surrounding Bitcoin mining have long been a hot topic. Some industry players are expecting to see more nuclear use in the mix of sustainable energy sources.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity to lower some regulatory burden and introduce enormous amounts of clean carbon-free baseload that nuclear provides unlike any other source,” Harry Sudock, vice president strategy of GRIID, a U.S.-based Bitcoin mining firm, said at a panel of the Bitcoin & Beyond Virtual Summit hosted by Forkast.News and AAX.
Sudock said the growth rate regarding sustainable sources is largely focused around solar and wind right now. “It’s the reality of the subsidy programs that have been rolled out over the last eight to 10 years,” he added. “But what we’d love to see is an expansion of nuclear. We’ve got two large reactors going live in Georgia in the coming year and a half.”
Indeed, as Bitcoin has risen up as a mainstream narrative, “around the same time as ESG mandates come reigning down on investors, we see more public efforts from Bitcoin miners to explicitly chase down more renewable energy mixes,” said George Kaloudis, a research analyst of crypto news outlet CoinDesk, at the same panel.
Some panelists also pointed out that there have been misunderstandings on the relationship between energy consumption and Bitcoin mining.
Samson Mow, chief strategy officer of Bitcoin technology company Blockstream, said at the panel that energy consumption is a hot topic, and “there’s a lot of FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] in that arena, just people misunderstanding Bitcoin mining and even misunderstanding energy production and consumption that are leading to these kind of crazy headlines that Bitcoin is going to boil the oceans.”
“The bigger picture is really often missed because Bitcoin mining is a small percentage of energy consumption worldwide — like a fraction of a percent,” Mow said. “If we are dirty, then everything is very dirty, right? It doesn’t really matter if Bitcoin is 40% renewable, or 50%, or 60% or 70%. What about the other piece of the pie?”
Mow noted that at some point, Bitcoin mining is “infinitely sustainable.”
“I don’t really like the sustainability narrative because that kind of assumes energy production is finite when it’s not,” Mow added. “Energy is vastly abundant in the universe. We only capture a small fraction of a percentage of the energy emitted by the sun.”
Industry matures, grows in the US
The U.S. has overtaken China’s leading position in cryptocurrency mining, according to the latest data from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, as China intensifies its crackdown on the sector while many miners leave the country for friendlier shores.
The data suggested that at the end of August, the U.S. accounted for 35.4% of the global hashrate share — which refers to the level of computing power required to mine — representing a significant surge from 16.8% at the end of April.
Amanda Fabiano, head of mining at digital asset invest management firm Galaxy Digital, said at the panel the Bitcoin mining industry is maturing this year. “We’re seeing things like the Bitcoin Mining Council organize and come out with some FUD-busting information.”
Formed in June, Bitcoin Mining Council is a voluntary and open forum of Bitcoin mining companies. It said last month that it had collected sustainable energy information from over 33% of the current global Bitcoin network in its latest survey. The results of the survey showed that the members of the BMC and participants in the survey are currently utilizing electricity with a 65.9% sustainable power mix.
BMC said it is estimated that the global mining industry’s sustainable electricity mix had grown to about 57.7% during the third quarter of this year, up 3% from the previous quarter.
“Public mining companies have become a prevalent theme for this year, and that actually allows us to have more insight into what’s happening,” said Fabiano of Galaxy Digital, which served as a founding member of BMC.
Mow also shared a similar view. “Pay attention to mining,” he said. “A lot of the companies that are public — publicly-traded mining companies — they are going to be used as proxies right now.”
Mow said that the mining industry is seeing a rapid expansion “just because of the profitability for mining.”
“You can expect to see a lot of competition to get the power purchase agreements … Everything is in short supply, so it’s going to be a mad race to scale up everything right now,” Mow added.