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Bitcoin Energy Consumption Statistics: Updated and Compared

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Bitcoin energy consumption

With annual Bitcoin energy consumption statistics showing Bitcoin consumes into the hundreds of terawatts of energy, it's time to understand how Bitcoin's evolution impacts worldwide energy use. To keep the following Bitcoin statistics meaningful, we've made comparisons to global energy figures as well as with other common payment networks and home energy consumption statistics.

Bitcoin Energy Consumption Statistics Worldwide

From 2017 until now, Bitcoin energy consumption has increased by over 1300%. According to Bitcoin statistics provided by Digiconomist through their Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, the lowest annual terawatt hour values (tWh) for Bitcoin's energy use were at just over 3 TWh per year at the start of 2017. By mid-April 2021, that number had grown to more than 50 TWh of annual Bitcoin energy usage worldwide.

According to Alex de Vries, a Dutch economics researcher and founder of Digiconomist, current worldwide Bitcoin energy consumption is equivalent to the energy used by all the data centers around the world put together, as of March 2021. However, these estimates are actually considered to bequite conservative, meaning that they are on the low end of the spectrum when it comes to Bitcoin statistics on energy use, as they are sourced from the Minimum TWh per year figures in the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index.

increasing trend

Using these same statistics, the most recent figures from Digiconomist estimate that Bitcoin energy consumption for the entire world has now reached 110.86 TWh per year. This estimate is twice as much as the most recent minimum TWh annual data points previously mentioned.

Bitcoin Statistics: Key Figures

Bitcoin energy consumption statistics that sum up the current situation:

  1. Bitcoin energy consumption is up 16x from 2017 levels
  2. Bitcoin accounts for 0.65% of total energy use worldwide
  3. Bitcoin annual energy consumption is equivalent to the amount of energy used by 15 million people
  4. Low end annual estimates put usage at 45 TWh, globally

The reason for the discrepancy between low and high estimates is that getting an exact figure for Bitcoin energy use is not possible given the decentralised and anonymized nature of the Bitcoin network and cryptocurrency in general. However, it is not to say that robust estimates cannot be calculated. Through web traffic and blockchain activity analysis, it is possible to get a good idea of how much energy the Bitcoin network uses and more importantly how Bitcoin energy consumption trends over time. Let's take a look.

A research team at the University of Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance has recently developed a separate tool for estimating Bitcoin's energy use which they call the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index (CBECI). Their worldwide Bitcoin energy use estimates are far higher than others.

On the lower end, CBECI and Digiconimist's Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index agree on the annual figure of around 45 TWh. However, the Cambridge team estimates that by the end of 2021 worldwide bitcoin energy consumption will equal around 142 TWh per year. These figures from the CBECI are about 30 TWh per year higher than the latest Bitcoin statistics from Digiconomist. In any case, we can put these large numbers into perspective by comparing Bitcoin energy consumption with how much energy real countries use. Let's take a look.

Bitcoin Stats vs. National Energy Use

Both the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index and Digiconomistagree that Bitcoin energy consumption is similar to that of the entire country of Sweden, depending on whether you view it from an energy usage or a carbon footprint perspective.

Bitcoin Energy Consumption vs. National Energy Use
Energy usage Origin Annual Energy usage
Poland 152 TWh per year
Bitcoin Energy Usage Estimate 142 TWh per year
Sweden 132 TWh per year
Argentina 125 TWh per year

Bitcoin Energy Consumption Estimate Source: Cambridge University Centre for Alternative Finance. National Energy Use Statistics Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. (Updated May 2021)

Apart from using the same amount of energy as Sweden, if Bitcoin were a country, it's energy consumption would be ranked number 27 in the world (out of 60) based on University of Cambridge current estimate and national energy use figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This means that Bitcoin consumes as much energy as a western country with about 15 million people.

While Bitcoin energy consumption puts it in the international energy rankings, it is worth keeping these statistics in perspective. According to the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, Bitcoin accounts for 0.65% of global electricity consumption, at the time of publication of this report.

Bitcoin Statistics: Carbon Footprint

Rather unsurprisingly, Bitcoin's carbon footprint is also similar to Sweden's, according to Digiconomist. Current estimates state that Bitcoin generates over 50 metric tonnes of CO2. This is because the persistent nature of Bitcoin mining relies on energy-intensive power which is usually generated by fossil fuels or nuclear energy in most countries.

The way the Bitcoin network operates and executes transactions means that large amounts of electricity need to be consumed by computers. This is called Blockchain technology, and it means that Bitcoin requires complex calculations to be performed in order to "establish trust" with other computers making similar operations. This allows all of the computers to reach a "consensus" which can vouch for the validity of a transaction before it is included in the Blockchain - the universal Bitcoin transaction ledger. As mentioned before, this process requires lots of power leading to a larger carbon footprint. A Harvard study reported that within in the next 30 years, carbon emissions from Bitcoin alone could push global temperatures 2 °C higher than current levels.

To put these Bitcoin energy stats and it's carbon footprint into perspective here are some comparisons:

  1. Carbon Footprint of 1 Bitcoin transaction is roughly 545kg CO2
  2. Carbon Footprint of 1 Bitcoin transaction equals over 90,000 hours of watching YouTube
  3. Carbon Footprint of 1 Bitcoin Transaction equals over 1,200,000 VISA (roughly 545kg) CO2

Bitcoin Mining Stats vs. Gold Mining Carbon Emissions

Bitcoin is built on the idea of mining, just like rare minerals. In the case of Bitcoin, "mining" refers to solving difficult "proof-of-work" calculations, which are used to validate the Bitcoin transactions every 10 minute. The process of working through all these calculations and ruse is so taxing that it is the computational equivalent to mining rare metals like gold. Bitcoin mining is actually a more intense activity than gold mining, at least in terms of carbon emissions for mining the gold equivalent of 1 Bitcoin.

Carbon Emissions for Bitcoin Mining vs. Gold Mining
Bitcoin Mining Carbon Emissions Gold Mining Carbon Emissions
146 tonnes CO2 to obtain 1 Bitcoin 23 CO2 Tonnes to obtain an equivalent amount of gold
6.34 times more CO2 is emitted to produce 1 single bitcoin vs its gold equivalent

Carbon emissions stats based on mining for the equivalent of value of 1 Bitcoin. (Updated May 2021)

Comparing Bitcoin mining carbon emissions statistics with gold mining carbon emissions is a fair equivalent because Bitcoin has often been called "Digital Gold". This is because, when compared with other current payment networks, Bitcoin has a relatively limited number of transactions that can be run per second.

Statistics: Bitcoin Energy Consumption and Home Energy Use

If all the electricity that is used by inactive home electronics (also known as zombie devices) in American households during one calendar year could somehow be re-directed to power Bitcoin transactions, Bitcoin energy consumption could be fully covered for a year and a half.

In another very British example, if all Bitcoin miners decided to stop for one day, Bitcoin energy consumption would make a lot of tea. A year of Bitcoin energy usage could power all tea kettles in the UK for 32 years straight.

Bitcoin and Home Energy Use: Key Facts

  1. Bitcoin energy consumption is equal to the amount of energy US homes waste on devices that are not actively in use.
  2. One year of Bitcoin Energy Consumption could power Cambridge University for 800 years.
  3. Bitcoin miners generate enough heat that they could power the boiler in your home.

If you are university student, you might be interested to find out that at current levels, a year of Bitcoin energy consumption could power the entirety of a large UK university for over 800 years.

These comparisons, provided by the University of Cambridge, reiterate the extreme energy intensity of Bitcoin mining by showing how Bitcoin energy consumption could be redirected.

VISA Card and Bitcoin Energy Consumption Statistics

While VISA is not a currency, it is a widespread payment network used worldwide. For this reason, it helps to put Bitcoin energy consumption into perspective.

Let's take a look at VISA and Bitcoin energy use side by side. To start, the following comparison is based on the fact that a single Bitcoin transaction uses about 1000 kWh of electricity. How many VISA card transactions could be run with that same amount of energy?

How many VISA transactions equals 1 Bitcoin transaction in terms of energy use?



VISA and Bitcoin Energy Efficiency Comparison

Looking at energy consumption per transaction leads to a dramatic contrast between traditional and crypto transaction power needs.

  1. 1000 kWh needed for a Bitcoin transaction
  2. 0.0013 kWh needed for a VISA transaction
  3. 1000 kWh can process 770,000 VISA transactions

While VISA is only one of several global financial networks, it is useful to highlight the fact that Bitcoin transactions require thousands of times more energy to be carried out. The high figures apparent in Bitcoin energy consumption statistics are due to the "proof-of-work" transactional model that the Bitcoin network is built on.

It is true that if Bitcoin were to transition to less energy intensive transaction model, not only would it be a more sustainable way of transferring wealth or doing business but also it could scale up in terms of frequency of transactions per second. This could, in turn, lead to wider adoption and present a credible alternative to traditional banking and payment systems.

Projected Bitcoin Energy Consumption Figures

Bitcoin is designed to be harder to obtain the longer the Bitcoin network is operational. This can only mean that Bitcoin energy consumption can only keep increasing. Using historical Bitcoin energy consumption statistics from researchers at University of Cambridge, it is possible to project what Bitcoin energy consumption growth could look like in 4 years time. The following chart gives the projected growth of bitcoin through the year 2025.

Bitcoin Energy Usage Growth Projection
Bitcoin Energy Usage 2017 Bitcoin Energy Usage 2021 Bitcoin Energy Usage 2025
10 TWh per year 110 TWh per year 1210 TWh per year
Equivalent to New Zealand Equivalent to Sweden Equivalent to India

Bitcoin Energy Use Estimate Source: Digiconomist. National Energy Use Statistics Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration. (Updated May 2021)

This Bitcoin energy consumption estimate is based on extrapolated historical figures. It assumes that the growth that occurred in the last 4 years will continue at the same pace in the next four years. There are a number external factors, from market adoption to regulatory pressure, that will affect the Bitcoin network and, by extension, Bitcoin energy consumption in 2025, in relation to current statistics.

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