Academic researchers at the University of Cambridge (UoC) have launched a real-time index that tracks the total electricity consumption of the Bitcoin network.
The news was revealed in an announcement posted by the university’s interdisciplinary academic research institute, the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (CCAF), on July 2.
The now-live Index — the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, or CBECI — gives an estimate of the total annualized energy consumption of the bitcoin network, updated every thirty seconds. The researchers also provide a tool that compares BTC’s consumption levels with other electricity use case, alongside a range of parameters to contextualize the live data.
At press time, CBECI gives a reading of an estimated 7.15 gigawatts (GW), with an annualized 53.01 terawatt-hour (Twh) average. Lower and upper bound readings are provided in parallel to the main estimate — 2.68 GW (21.46 TWh) and 21.71 (146.45 TWh), respectively.
As commentators on crypto twitter have already picked up, the CBECI indicates that the electricity wasted each year by always-on but inactive home devices in the U.S. alone could apparently power the Bitcoin network for 4 years.
Conversely, the amount of power consumed by the Bitcoin network in one year could power all tea kettles used to boil water for 11 years in the United Kingdom, and 1.5 years in Europe (incl. the U.K.)
Bitcoin accounts an estimated 0.24% (20863 TWh) of total electricity consumption worldwide annually, per CBECI. A graph comparing the network with the total power consumption of nation-states globally ranks bitcoin as the 43rd “country” — consuming more power than a number of states including Romania, Denmark, Israel, Singapore, and Uzbekistan.
CCAF notes that it has constructed the index in a bid to provide objective and neutral data that can be used by policymakers, regulators, researchers, and others and contribute to the debate over the sustainability and environmental impact of bitcoin mining.
Few reliable estimates of the coin’s power usage have until now existed, CCAF claims, as most provide only a one-time snapshot, motivating the need for a more comprehensive analysis of the crypto industry’s carbon footprint. A second phase of the index and site’s development will reportedly include an interactive geographical map of mining facilities globally.
As reported, clean energy advocates have hit back against the notion that high energy use is an Achilles heel for bitcoin, arguing that the debate needs to shift from electricity consumption by mining towards where that energy is produced and how it is generated.
Earlier this month, crypto investment products and research firm CoinShares published a study indicating that an estimated 74.1% of BTC mining is powered by renewable energy sources.
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