How To Reduce Energy Consumption In The Midst Of Crypto Popularity
Electrical energy has become an integral part of everyday modern life. It’s used to power our bulbs and home appliances, trains, and even charge electric vehicles. Globally, its use is rising rapidly as different economies across the globe develop. Therefore, there is a growing need for energy which in turn continually drives the demand for electricity generation. For years now, most of the electricity consumed on a global scale has been generated from three energy sources: fossil fuel, nuclear, and hydro. Renewable energy sources such as photovoltaic (solar power), offer an alternative, albeit small, a share of the world’s electricity. However, our energy sources can have significant environmental impacts.
Cryptocurrency Mining, Then Versus Now
Back in the day, 2009 to be precise, Bitcoin mining was nothing more than a lucrative hobby for several crypto enthusiasts. Miners could leverage their CPUs to mine Bitcoin as they were enough. It was possible because the only hardware needed for mining was a simple computer and the number of miners was significantly low. In fact, in the early stages, Hal Finney and Satoshi were the only ones mining BTC through the use of several computers simultaneously. Satoshi mined 1,000,000 Bitcoins in the first week of the project, courtesy of several computers.
At that time, the difficulty of mining was extremely low. However, over time, the problem has shot up drastically courtesy of Bitcoin’s rules and a change in new and advanced mining hardware. At the start, individuals would use CPUs (Central Processing Units) to mine BTC. CPUs represent the electronic circuitry within a computer.
Back in 2009, a miner would generate bitcoins at a rate of 50 per block. Gradually, people made the shift to GPU mining which was comfortable and lucrative to use. Due to this, GPU mining became extremely popular, and in 2011, people started using them. Soon after, the mining difficulty increased, and by June 2011, people began using FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays). Shortly after that, in 2013, FPGAs gave way to ASICs (Application Specific Integrated Circuits) that have made BTC mining industrious.
Currently, the Bitcoin mining process requires about 73.04 TWh of computational power to solve complex mathematical equations per year. This equates to about 0.33% of the total global electricity consumption. One Bitcoin transaction on average consumes about 916 KWh of electricity that could power about 31 US households. Mining is no longer lucrative for individual miners as setting up needs specialized mining rigs that are expensive to buy and operate.
For instance, it would set a single Bitcoin miner back around $15,861 to mine one bitcoin in the Cook Islands near New Zealand. The cost rises to about $16,209 in the Solomon Islands located near Papua New Guinea. The prices of mining one Bitcoin further rise in Bahrain, Niue, and South Korea with amounts of $16,773, $17,566, and $26,170 respectively.
Mining creates enormous electricity bills through energy consumption and cooling (and that’s on top of the cost of mining equipment and, nowadays, a facility to house your rows and towers of machines). The current BTC network is estimated to be consuming about 2.55 gigawatts (GW) of electricity annually which is enough to power a whole country. For context, the entire state of Ireland consumes an average of 3.1 GW of electricity.
Potential Consequence of High Non-Renewable Energy Usage
Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The most well-known impact of increased non-renewable sources usage is the production of greenhouse gases mainly CO2 that is believed by many to contribute to climate change (though much of this is politicized hype). Different types of non-renewable energies produce different levels of greenhouse gases. For example, coal provides the highest amount of CO2 emission. It’s important to note that CO2 is plant food (and plants produce oxygen), is what every breathing creature emits when exhaling, and climate change (formerly Global Cooling, formerly Global Warming) is not agreed upon by scientists to be caused by human activity, as there are a myriad of other, likely much more influential factors, such as solar cycles. It’s also worth noting that climate change has always happened, with warmer and colder periods, and what has been hyped up in the last decade is a tiny percentage of what humanity has witnessed, without industry. Predictions of the world ending disastrously in a few short years if we don’t do something politically have fallen flat.
It is worth noting that the above factor will also depend upon how efficient the engines using these fuels are, and filtering systems to reduce emissions. Modern technology can produce very efficient, low emission engines which use fossil fuels.
Token Creation (PoW/PoS/DPoS)
Proof-of-Work (PoW) is a term that’s usually used to denote the kind of concept that the Bitcoin network uses to validate and add transactions to the blockchain. It involves the use of ASICs in mining to solve complex mathematical algorithms otherwise known as PoW problems. Although PoW is excellent against cyber-attacks, it has a major limitation of high electricity consumption. Furthermore, mining rigs require top computing hardware that’s expensive to attain. Some of the projects using the PoW consensus algorithm include Bitcoin, Monero, Ethereum, Ethereum Classic, Bitcoin Cash, Zcash, Litecoin, and DogeCoin. Ethereum is intended to make the change from PoW to PoS via the Casper protocol.
Proof-of-Stake (PoS), on the other hand, is an alternative way of validating transactions or blocks. It was engineered as an alternative to the PoW process that consumes an immense amount of energy. Unlike Proof-of-Work, coins are no longer mined but are forged or minted. Block validation is done by a select group of individuals known as validators. They are chosen depending on the age and amount of stake they hold within the blockchain network. Some of the projects using the PoS algorithm include Dash, QTUM, NEO, NavCoin, Stellar Lumen, Zcoin, and Stratis.
Benefits of the PoS system include:
Less expensive hardware is required.
Transaction times are much faster.
It is energy efficient as it doesn’t consume a lot of energy.
Delegated Proof-of-Stake, otherwise known as DPoS, is a new and alternative protocol to both the PoW and PoS consensus algorithms. It’s mostly considered to be the most decentralized consensus model in existence today. This is mostly because every token holder has a degree of influence about what happens in the network. DPoS uses the power of stakeholder approval voting to promote consensus in a fair and democratic manner. Projects using DPoS include Lisk, Ark, Rise, Tezos, OxyCoin, Shift, Lightning BTC, and EOS, among others.
Blockchain projects around the world can help reduce energy consumption by taking alternative routes in the cryptocurrency mining process. First, blockchain projects can make the switch from the PoW system to the PoS system which is much cheaper and consumes less energy. Secondly, cryptocurrency miners can make the switch to cleaner and friendly renewable sources of energy such as solar energy. Lastly, blockchain networks can incentivize miners to use renewable energy resources by offering additional rewards for those that utilize them.
Guest Post by Pawel Towczzk
My name is Paweł Tomczyk. I’m a technology enthusiast and an early adopter. I’m the contributor in the blockchain ecosystem and various range of funds. I have been specializing in marketing and Fintech for six years. Nowadays, I’m the founder of Cyberius (www.cyberius.com), which specializes in content creation and crowdfunding.