How much electricity does bitcoin consume globally? The answer is important not only for the health of the planet, but also for the currency’s value. Researchers start by looking at the bitcoin network’s daily “hashrate”—i.e., how quickly computers on the network can perform calculations.
Then they make some assumptions about the computer equipment most miners are using.1 Throw in an estimate of average electricity prices and the latest price for bitcoin, and you can get an accurate, if imprecise, estimate of electricity consumption.
The most reputable such estimate comes from the University of Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index, according to which the global bitcoin network currently consumes about 80 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, roughly equal to the annual output of 23 coal-fired power plants, or close to what is consumed by the nation of Finland. Bitcoin’s energy use compared to a battery.
Let’s break that down in a way that’s a bit easier to understand. Here’s one battery. That can power… your remote control? But who buys one battery? A pack of 40 produces 104 Wh of energy—about enough to charge an e-reader. THE AMOUNT OF BATTERIES NEEDED TO POWER AN ELECTRIC CAR Instead of a pack of batteries, what if we filled up a pallet? That’s about as much electricity as you’d need to drive a typical electric vehicle from Boston to Chicago.
THE NUMBER OF BATTERIES NEEDED TO POWER A HOME Now let’s fill an entire 20-foot shipping container with batteries, and you get a little less energy than what an average American household consumes in a year.
THE AMOUNT OF ELECTRICITY NEEDED FOR ONE DAY OF BITCOIN MINING An Algeciras class ship, the world’s largest and the same size as Evergiven, but with slightly more capacity, can hold 24,000 of these 20-foot shipping containers. That would give you enough electricity for a two-month supply for every commercial building in the US. This is just slightly less than one day of bitcoin mining, which according to the Cambridge index, is 231,726,027 kWh (231.7 GWh).