It’s no secret that Bitcoin (BTC) mining is an expensive business, and in more ways than one. Not only has it become less profitable since July 2016’s halving of mining rewards to 12.5 BTC, but competition among miners and an increasing hashrate have resulted in ever-higher energy consumption, with all the damage to the environment that implies.
Yet, as energy-intensive as Bitcoin mining is, a question still remains: Is there a seasonal variation in the cryptocurrency’s energy consumption? Even if consumption is rising on the whole, does something different happen during the summer months?
Well, data hasn’t been collected on Bitcoin’s electricity consumption for long enough to provide a truly authoritative answer to this question, yet what data there is suggests that the summer brings a slight, but noticeable weakening to the rise in BTC’s energy consumption. This is most likely because, globally, energy prices increase during the summer months, putting a strain on the profitability of Bitcoin mining.
When it comes to the question of Bitcoin’s energy consumption, the first thing that needs to be stated is that direct data on consumption hasn’t been made available by the big mining companies. Still, a number of indirect estimations have been produced over the years — based on such metrics as profits, network difficulty and hardware efficiency — and these all show that consumption has been increasing consistently.
Back in June 2014, the first rigorous study on BTC energy consumption was published by Karl J. O’Dwyer and David Malone of the National University of Ireland Maynooth. It estimated Bitcoin’s annual energy cost to be something between 0.1–10GW (accounting for the uncertainty as to which mining equipment was being used), although the authors settled — though without fully explaining why — on 3GW, which was equivalent to Ireland’s yearly consumption level at the time.
Since then, the most widely cited data has come from the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index (BECI). Produced by analyst Alex de Vries, the BECI settled on a higher figure than that of O’Dwyer and Malone’s model, and it has continued to reveal steady, day-to-day increases in BTC consumption ever since it started collecting data in February 2017. In December, it put annual consumption at 32TW/h per year — equal to 3.65GW. By contrast, its latest figure — for Sept. 12 — indicates that the Bitcoin network is now eating up 73TW/h — or around 8.8GW – each year. However, in a standalone, peer-reviewed paper from May, de Vries put annual consumption at 2.55GW (22.4TW/h).
As the table below illustrates, de Vries’ data shows that there have been very few dips during this overall rise. The strong increases continued even during the first half of 2018, when the BTC price saw a considerable correction from its December high of $19,900. For instance, when the price fell by 46.2 percent over three months to the Feb. 17 price of $10,707, BTC’s energy consumption increased by 42.6 percent over the same period — from 34.96TW/h to 49.85TW/h. And when BTC’s value dropped by 9.87 percent between April and the end of June (to $6,366), its energy consumption rose by 20.9 percent (to 71.1TW/h).
This goes to show that, despite the recent ups and downs, BTC’s price was high enough to continue driving increased competition among Bitcoin miners, who added capacity to the network in a bid to claim freshly minted coins for themselves. This has had the overall effect of pushing energy consumption ever upward, undermining the sense that there’s any seasonal variation.
Marc Bevand — an entrepreneur who has produced his own calculations on BTC energy consumption — largely agrees with this impression.
“We don’t notice seasonal variations because the network has been growing quite fast, so any — presumably small — seasonal variation is lost in the large amounts of hashrate capacity — and thus energy consumption — being added every month. For…
See more at: https://cointelegraph.com/news/bitcoins-energy-consumption-in-summer-rise-or-fall