A new study suggests that Bitcoin has already used more power so far this year than it did in all of 2020.
By the end of the year, the Bitcoin network will have consumed 91 TW/h (terawatt-hours or one trillion watts per hour) and it has already consumed more than the estimated 67 TW/h for all of 2020 according to a Sept. 13 Bloomberg report.
The precise energy consumption figures are variable and not easy to calculate accurately, but the trend is clear — they are increasing. The Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index currently estimates that BTC is set to consume an even greater 95.68 TW/h by the end of the year. This is about the same as the power consumption of the Philippines.
A separate study by Science Direct has highlighted another issue — electronic waste. E-waste generally refers to discarded computer equipment and electronics. The report suggests that one transaction on the Bitcoin network produces 272 grams of e-waste, mostly comprised of old mining equipment.
It added that Bitcoin miners “cycle through a growing amount of short-lived hardware that could exacerbate the growth in global electronic waste,” adding that its annual e-waste generation totaled 30.7 metric kilotons as of May 2021.
Projecting that through to the end of the year the study stated:
“Bitcoin could produce up to 64.4 metric kilotons [64,400 tons] of e-waste at peak Bitcoin price levels seen in early 2021.”
The e-waste per transaction is about half the weight of the latest iPad. But to put that in context, Apple itself could be facing a massive e-waste problem with over 1.65 billion devices running on the ecosystem as of last year according to CEO Tim Cook. This could result in as much as 250,000 metric tons of e-waste when they become obsolete according to Zdnet.
Bitcoin accounts for around 0.11% of the estimated global total for e-waste in 2021, which is 57.4 million metric tons according to Statista.
Related: Green Bitcoin: The impact and importance of energy use for PoW
Bitcoin’s energy usage is also small in context, depending on your perspective. As a percentage of the total global electricity consumption, Bitcoin mining accounts for just 0.43%. That’s less than the estimated 104 TW/h used by refrigerators in the U.S. alone according to Cambridge University.
A more humorous viewpoint on Bitcoin’s power consumption was taken by The Onion which said that computing power used for BTC mining is actually saving humanity from destruction. The logic behind the sardonic premise is that freed from the demands of mining crypto the world’s computers would otherwise “most likely apply that computational power toward becoming self-aware and, ultimately, exterminating the human race.”
While Bitcoin mining does consume a mammoth amount of energy, ever since the great miner migration out of China, more of it is renewable as new and relocated farms and factories come online in the U.S. and Canada powered by green energy.