Bitcoin’s Energy Consumption Grows, Now Comparable to Czech Republic

In brief

  • The estimated energy consumption of the network is steadily increasing.
  • A recent peak is the highest estimated figure since the halving in May.
  • A new journal report suggests that estimates may even be low.

Bitcoin’s estimated energy consumption and environmental impact – due to the heavy power requirements of mining platforms – grew and grew to May halving, at which point it fell off a cliff when the mining rewards were cut in half.

It didn’t take long for those estimates started tapping up again, and this month they reached levels unseen since March.

According to Digiconomist, which tracks the estimated total power consumption of the entire Bitcoin network, Bitcoin is currently estimated to consume 67,927 terawatt hours (TWh) per year as of Thursday. That is slightly lower than the recent peak of 68,916 TWh on September 4.

That recent peak was the highest since May 11, the day of the halving, and is close to the mid-March numbers. Back then, estimated consumption had plummeted due to Bitcoin’s COVID-19 crash. but it grew before halving. This month’s peak is also an increase of more than 12% from July.

Meanwhile, the minimum Bitcoin’s estimated total energy consumption reached a recent peak of 54,853 TWh on September 2, the highest figure since November 2018. It has dropped slightly from the last week plus, reaching 50,715 TWh on Thursday.

According to Bitcoin’s latest estimated energy consumption, the network behind the energy consumption is only 42 countries in the world in that regard, with Bitcoin’s energy consumption comparable to the Czech Republic. Bitcoin’s energy consumption is now on that list above Switzerland, Kuwait and Algeria.

Digiconomist estimates Bitcoin’s carbon footprint at 32.27 Mt CO2, or comparable to that of Azerbaijan, with electronic waste production comparable to Luxembourg’s at 10.81 kt.

Meanwhile, a single Bitcoin transaction is estimated to have the same carbon footprint as 709,007 VISA transactions, or 47,267 hours of YouTube video viewing, or the power consumption of an average US household for 20 days.

These are estimates only, mind you, and there is some debate as to whether they account for more efficient modern mining operations. However, an August report from Energy research and social sciences, written by Alex de Vries, the creator of Digiconomist, suggests that estimates of Bitcoin’s energy consumption could in fact be significantly underestimated.

For example, that magazine article “conservatively” estimated the total energy consumption of the Bitcoin network at 87.1 TWh as of September 30, 2019, while Digiconomist gives an estimate of 73.21TWh for the same date.

Bitcoin’s hash rate, or the total combined processing power across the entire network, is set a new high on September 8. The hash rate and estimated power consumption are consistently intertwined.